National Health Center Week celebrations

Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida dental assistant Anamaria Llorca paints a lady bug on Emily Bejarano’s face during National Health Center Week festivities, Aug. 15, at the Golden Gate Community Center. Tatiana Bejarano giggled at the results of her daughter’s face paint, Aug. 15, during the Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida’s National Health Center Week celebration at the Golden Gate Community Center.

But her smile faded when asked about the five-year-old’s dental care.

“We had a dentist but Medicaid changed,” she explained. “Now I have to pay and I don’t have the money.”

Providing parents like Bejarano with access to quality healthcare is the mission of the Healthcare Network. Last year, the Network provided primary care to more than 45,000 people (32,000 of whom were children) at 13 locations throughout Collier County, including the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.

The Healthcare Network is among 1,128 non-profit, federally supported health centers in the United States, serving more than 20 million people, regardless of ability to pay. During National Health Center Week, Aug. 11-17, centers across the country celebrated with a variety of events and activities.

“The goal was outreach and education, but we had a lot of fun as well,” said Healthcare Network Medical Operations Manager Lydia Posada, chair of the operations team that coordinated events in Immokalee and Golden Gate. “We were thrilled with the turn-out, especially in Golden Gate since that was a first-time event. The community response was tremendous and validates the need for quality healthcare for all.”

Joining in the festivities were the David Lawrence Center, Integral, Radiology Regional, Early Steps, the HIV mobile unit, the Mammogram Mobile, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and local fire control and rescue district personnel, among others.

As she watched her daughters romp in the bounce house, Golden Gate participant Nadia Aparicio shared her thoughts on the availability of local healthcare.

“We have health insurance now, but we didn’t when the girls were younger,” she said, “If you don’t have insurance, it’s difficult. You don’t know where to go for help.”

Statistics show the high cost of not finding help. Delayed care turns low-cost health maintenance into major medical care, resulting in costly emergency, hospital and specialty care at public expense. By providing a “patient centered home,” the Healthcare Network is able to follow patients, ensure necessary treatment and provide preventative education that reduces long-term healthcare costs.

Funding for the Healthcare Network comes from patient fees and reimbursements, federal grants and generous philanthropic support. More than 96 percent of funding goes directly to patient care.

For more information on the Healthcare Network, contact Kaydee Tuff at (239) 658-3116 or