Project HEALTH opens new South Side location

Connecting patients with basic resources like food and housing, national non-profit organization Project HEALTH opened a fourth Family Help Desk in Chicago two weeks ago.

By Emmuri Jo

National non-profit organization Project HEALTH opened a fourth Family Help Desk in Chicago two weeks ago.

Project HEALTH connects patients with basic resources like food and housing in an attempt to ameliorate health problems in urban areas. There are family help desks staffed by students in clinics and health centers in six cities. The organization's three pre-existing Help Desks in Chicago are staffed primarily by U of C students, as is its newest location.

Project HEALTH's CEO and founder, Rebecca Onie, was on campus Wednesday, one month before the scheduled announcement of the organization’s new name and logo. Updating the name and logo is part of the program’s efforts nationwide to adapt as it continues to expand.

Project HEALTH opened the new help desk on October 12. One of 23 help desks across the country, it is located at the Chicago Family Health Center (CFHC) on South Exchange Avenue and East 91st Street.

It is the result of cooperation between the Project HEALTH administration and CFHC, which was eligible for a help desk because of its certification as a federally qualified health center. “The center has been very eager and open. In general, it’s such a good fit for our services,” said Program Manager Sarah Grusin (A.B. ’10).

The new help desk accepts referrals from all four CFHC locations: East Side, Roseland, Pullman, and Chicago Lawn. It joins three other Chicago help desks, all of which were established by 2006. These other help desks are at Friend Family Health Center, La Rabida Children’s Hospital, and University of Chicago Medical Center.

Project HEALTH’s leaders are trying to adapt the organization as it expands. At a talk, Onie explained that the program is rebranding in response to “a distinct period in Project HEALTH, an evolution,” she said.

Onie gave an unofficial presentation of the new name, the logo, and the future goals of the organization. The official renaming announcement will take place on November 8.

“I’m really excited about the possibilities and the doors this new name opens up. It’s really grown on me,” said third-year and U of C Project HEALTH Campus Coordinator Deanna Digitale, who took part in the rebranding process.

Project HEALTH started working on the infrastructure of the new help desk during the summer. The campus branch has a total of 16 student volunteers, 46 clients, and 30 to 40 referrals from other Chicago locations.

Friend Family Health Center, one of the other health centers in Chicago with a Project HEALTH help desk, has 44 volunteers. Grusin is hoping to have 30 volunteers at the new site by January.