By Eva Hofmann
One of the country’s first community health centers, the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) Mile Square Health Centers (UI-MSHC), opened its first neighborhood clinic in 1967 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty program.
UI-MSHC has a rich history of providing primary care, including obstetrics and gynecology, behavioral health, and dental services; substance abuse treatment; and an array of social and enabling services to residents throughout the Chicago and Cicero communities.
“We are committed to providing care to all individuals regardless of their ability to pay,” said Mile Square CEO Henry Taylor. “Patients without insurance are seen based on a sliding fee scale.”
110,000 patient visits
Combined, Mile Square’s 15 clinics and various services provide more than 110,000 patient visits to roughly 36,000 patients per year in some of Chicago’s most underserved communities.
No matter your race, religion, income, or coverage status, you can get care for you and your family from one of the most respected health systems in the country.
UI-MSHC’s primary practice site is Mile Square-Main, its 1220 S. Wood St. facility at West Roosevelt Road, right around the corner from the UI Hospital and its dozens of outpatient clinics. The facility provides primary and specialty care to residents in nearby communities such as the Near West Side, Little Italy, Tri-Taylor, Pilsen, Lawndale, University Village, UIC East and West campuses, the Illinois Medical District, and surrounding neighborhoods.
Mile Square-Main offers services for every age, from newborns to elderly, including primary care, behavioral healthcare, family medicine, HIV/AIDS care, imaging and mammography, immunizations, obstetrics and gynecology, urgent care, and urology.
Walk-in visitors are welcome and served on a first-come, first-served basis. This health center also provides electronic medication dispensing and on-site, certified application counselors to educate and enroll patients for health insurance. Staff provides assistance in English or Spanish, and translators are available for other languages.
Same-day appointments are available on a limited, first-come-first-served basis, and wait times vary. UI-MSHC accepts a broad range of payment and insurance plans. Based on their income and family size, many Mile Square patients qualify for low-cost services.
Behavioral healthcare (BH) consists of the continuum of services for people at risk for or who have mental health and substance use disorders, health behaviors, life stressors and crises, or stress-related physical symptoms. Mile Square strives to offer all patients access to comprehensive integrated physical, addiction, and behavioral health services through co-location and integrated healthcare, using a patient-centered, team-based approach.
Patients do not need referrals from a primary care physician (PCP) to receive needed BH services. “Patients can walk in and receive services for BH, or they can be a referral or warm hand-off from the PCP,” said Nicole Gastala, MD, UI-MSHC director of behavioral health and addiction.
“Ideally, they receive primary care at MSHC or are open for us to be their medical home so that we can provide full-spectrum and wrap-around services in one place. The additional benefit is we have collaborative care meetings for patient-case discussions as well as a shared electronic medical record.”
Mile Square serves younger patients with both pediatric and adolescent BH services. While licensed clinical social workers are trained to treat the entire spectrum of life, Mile Square has a pediatric clinical psychologist on staff.
Which therapists patients see depends on patients’ and their schedules, according to Gastala. Patients might see the same therapist each time, or “they may drop in for services when they need it and see a different therapist. We try for continuity, but ultimately it is based on patient preference.”
Mile Square Health Centers have developed an integrated primary care-BH-addiction program. “We offer all three approved medications for opioid use disorder,” said Gastala. It also offers counseling and peer-recovery support services.
In addition to its comprehensive array of medical care and social services, Mile Square offers expanded dental services, previously offered only at its South Shore clinic (now located at 7037 S. Stony Island Ave.). The Stony Island location also features medical care.
“In 2019, with the assistance of the Michael Reese Health Trust, we were able to expand to 1220 S. Wood,” said Sodabeh Etminan, DMD, Mile Square dental director. “Thanks to that successful launch and continued support, we now offer services at 641 W. 63rd St. as well as 4630 S. Bishop St.,” she said.
Dental facilities are co-located in clinics that also offer medical and behavioral health services. Mile square dentists treat various conditions, and services include dental exams, X rays, cleanings, fillings, extractions, dentures, and crowns. “We have eight amazing members of the dental team,” said Etminan.
Certain procedures, such as dentures, crowns, and nitrous oxide sedation for pediatric or special-needs patients, currently are performed only at the South Shore location. Dental team members rotate, according to Etminan, but patients typically stay with the providers of their choice. Mile Square’s co-located practices mean you can see your doctor and dentist in the same day.
A safe environment
Mile Square has made updates to ensure patient safety during the coronavirus pandemic. These include air filtration devices and adding screening and sterilization processes to the clinic’s already robust disinfection workflow.
UI-MSCH sites also offer COVID-19 testing and vaccines to community members, and patients can call (312) 996-2000 for this or any healthcare appointment. Call the same number for a dental appointment and just ask for Mile Square Dental. For more information, go to https://hospital.uillinois.edu/patients-and-visitors/mile-square-federally-qualified-health-center.