The Episcopal Health Foundation has announced $550,000 in grants that will allow two health organizations serving Central Texas to expand their offerings.

The foundation recently announced a $450,000 grant that the Heart of Texas Community Health Center, also known as the Family Health Center, is using to address obesity and related metabolic diseases and to expand access to healthy food. The foundation also recently gave $100,000 to Catholic Charities of Central Texas that will be used to establish a video therapy program, expanding access to mental health services.

The grant for the Family Health Center in Waco is part of Episcopal Health’s $10 million Texas Community Centered Health Homes Initiative, which it announced early this month. It gave money to 12 other organizations through the program, according to an Episcopal Health press release.

The Family Health Center in Waco is using its three-year grant, which it got in August, to expand its “prescription vegetable” program. The program provides patients with healthy food as a way to prevent disease, said Wendy Cox, who manages the grant for the center.

“Medical care alone isn’t enough to keep many Texans healthy,” Episcopal Health vice president for impact Lexi Nolen wrote in the press release. “When patients keep coming back with recurring health problems, community clinics are left asking the same frustrating question, ‘What good does it do to treat people if we keep sending them back to the conditions that make them sick?’ This is a new approach to go beyond patient-only treatments and promote change at the systems and community levels.”

The grant is also paying for a new partnership with a local attorney to tackle medical barriers through legal advice and resources. It also may be used to develop land around the clinic to make it more appealing to the neighborhood and to re-emphasize ongoing initiatives to encourage people to grow their own produce and to socialize outdoors, Cox said.

The grant gives the clinic time and money to build its capacity and to get out in front of what influences health issues in Waco, she said.

“We’re using this opportunity to try and study to see what works,” Cox said. “Everybody’s learning from this experience. It’s designed to be that way as we’re kind of figuring out best practices, which aren’t the same in every community.”

Catholic Charities

The $100,000 Episcopal Health gave Catholic Charities of Central Texas on Feb. 7 will allow it to offer video therapy for the first time to the 25-county area it serves, including McLennan County, said Annie Chavez, Catholic Charities’ associate director of grant management.

The organization has offices in Austin, Bryan and Killeen, but officials knew transportation and time were barriers to care for many people in need, Chavez said.

Now, as long as someone has internet access on a computer, tablet or smart phone in a comfortable private place, they can have access to a licensed professional counselor, she said. The video chat service they will use complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, she said.

The grant will also allow Catholic Charities to add more counselors at its offices, a press release from the organization states.

Last year, Catholic Charities served 11,693 people in its 25 Central Texas counties, including 237 from McLennan County, Chavez said.

“We’re really interested in tracking the growth,” she said. “Right now we don’t know, but we certainly hope it’s going to increase our numbers in service locations, where there’s not an office and particularly in rural areas.”

The grant will last through the calendar year, and if there is enough interest, the organization’s fundraising team will work to find the money to keep the tele-therapy service going, Chavez said.

It is offered in English and Spanish languages, and clients pay a fee based on their income. Veterans and their spouses and dependents pay a flat rate of $10 per session, she said.

“When we found out we received the grant in December, we were so excited,” Chavez said. “It’s just going to be a huge addition to our program.”

Shelly Conlon has covered K-12 education for the Tribune-Herald since July 2016. Prior to the Tribune-Herald, she was the managing editor for the Waxahachie Daily Light, and an intern for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

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