Change in HIV primary care and mental health services at Uptown facility

Sat. July 23, 2016 9:44 AM by Ross Forman

Chicago, IL - The UIC Community Clinic Network (UCCN), which provides HIV primary care and mental health services to seven neighborhood clinics in the city, was selected to assume operations of the Chicago Department of Public Health's HIV primary care clinic in Uptown at 845 W. Wilson – and new operations there started in June.

"We are very excited to have been awarded the clinic in Uptown," said Dr. Richard Novak, professor, chief of infectious disease in UIC's College of Medicine, and director of the UCCN. "We have moved our own existing Uptown clinic into the CDPH facility, and are pleased to be able to assume the care of the patients there. We have already had a presence in Uptown for the past 25 years, so we have been part of the neighborhood for quite some time. This is a positive move for us, and will allow us to bring our comprehensive services to a larger clientele."

The UCCN moved existing staff and patients from its old location at Broadway and Montrose to the CDPH building, which is a larger space than where it previously operated from and better equipped, Novak said. "We are expanding our staff to allow operations five days a week. This includes HIV primary care provided by Infectious Diseases-trained physicians, nurses, case management, outreach, pharmacy services, as well as mental health. As part of University of Illinois Health, we have access to the highest level of care for our patients as needed."

Novak, 62, who lives in suburban Glencoe and has lived in the Chicago area his whole life, has been providing HIV care for 30 years, since 1986. "So much has changed from those (early) years; HIV is now a very manageable condition, and our patients can expect to feel well, and live a full life if they adhere to the treatment," he said.

At the Uptown facility, UCCN will have a comprehensive program of services: physicians and nurses, and phlebotomists to provide primary HIV care, as well as a doctor of pharmacy to facilitate access to the medications, educating patients about their treatment, and promoting treatment adherence; outreach staff to help keep in touch with the patients, assist in getting them to clinic or to their appointments at the University Medical Center, mental health providers including licensed therapists to provide one-on-one and group therapy, a psychiatrist for medication management; and case management services offered through two collaborating agencies – UIC's School of Public Health Community Outreach Intervention Project (COIP) and Chicago House, to help with issues such as appointment and medication adherence, benefits applications, and referrals to other services such as drug treatment, housing and food pantries.

The Uptown facility is about 1,600 square-feet, with rooms to house all the staff, Novak said. The clinic is open normal business hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with five infectious diseases-trained physicians, two nurses, a phlebotomist, one outreach worker, a clinic coordinator who will serve as a liaison between the medical staff and case management, as well as three case managers (two from COIP, one from Chicago House). Many of the staff are bilingual.

"The staff (is) a reflection of the target population," Novak said.

That includes the LGBT community.

"UCCN takes pride in providing high quality, non-judgmental, comprehensive care to our patients. We meet our patients where they are at, not only in the community, but in their life as well," he said.

HIV testing will be done on-site through COIP; it is free and available on a walk-in basis.

"UCCN offers comprehensive primary care to HIV-positive individuals, treating other co-morbidities such as hepatitis, hypertension and diabetes, in addition to HIV care," Novak said.

Novak said that, other than UCCN's flagship clinic on the UIC campus, the Uptown facility is the only community-based site in an actual clinical building. "The others are very nondescript storefronts, designed to hide what goes on inside," he said. "Since several clinics operate in the Wilson building, no one will self-disclose their HIV status by entering the building, but they will feel like they are in a medical clinic when they arrive."

The UIC Community Clinic Network North Side (Uptown) location is at 845 W. Wilson Ave., in Chicago, and is open Monday through Friday. To schedule an appointment, call (312) 636-1222.