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The Center plans to offer primary care health services in Las Vegas

Updated January 28, 2022 - 7:00 am

A recent executive hire at The Center, a nonprofit serving the LGBTQ community, is part of a larger plan to significantly expand its healthcare services in downtown Las Vegas.

Mona Lisa Paulo joined the organization in November as its director of clinic and HIV services as it looks to become a federally qualified health center, a community-based health care provider that receives funds from the Health Resources and Services Administration for providing primary care in underserved areas.

“Whether you’re undocumented, whether you have no income or no insurance — the program is to help anybody who walks through the door get any kind of medical services,” Paulo said. “This neighborhood has been identified as a medically underserved community. Having the clinic here, having the services we provide, is just going to be instrumental to being able to give access to basically come in and get medical services.”

Currently, the nonprofit’s Arlene Cooper Community Health Center focuses on HIV testing and counseling services as well as testing for three common sexually transmitted infections through a partnership with the Las Vegas-based Huntridge Family Clinic. It accepts most insurance, including Medicaid, and offers a sliding scale fee for uninsured clients.

It will take about three years for the nonprofit to become a federally qualified health center. In the meantime, the organization plans on expanding its services such as extended clinic hours and building an on-site pharmacy, among other practices.

Adding to the clinic is also part of the nonprofit’s plan for fund sustainability, Chief Operating Officer Brian Hosier said.

The Center generates revenue by renting out event space and operating an on-site coffee shop. It also participates in a federal discount drug pricing program. But upgrading the clinic’s services will bring additional revenue to sustain its practices, he said.

Historically, the clinic has been a place for the LGBTQ community to receive nonjudgmental care, Hosier said. Advocates and providers ask blunt questions to give the best possible care,and its trusting reputation has led to people beyond the queer community to seek HIV-related care there, according to Hosier.

Harm reduction tactics like safe needle exchange programs, a Trac-B vending machine dispensing hygiene kits, pregnancy tests, opioid overdose-reversing drugs and more have added to the expanded community that the clinic serves.

“There are some unique attributes that come to servicing our community,” Hosier said. “We feel like we’re well positioned to make sure that we are providing what the LGBTQIA+ community needs, as well as the community as a whole. We need to be good neighbors and part of that plan is to help those people who are in great need for medical care, or mental health services, or whatever, and don’t have the means or transportation to get to that.”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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