Howard Brown Health (Howard Brown) is preparing to open a new, larger and more holistic facility at 3501 N. Halsted St., two blocks south of Center on Halsted in Lake View, for this coming Fall.
Organization officials hope that the new facilitylocated on the former site of Little Jim's tavernwill both reduce wait times for Howard Brown clientele and allow them to more easily access services.
"The current Melrose clinic, which lacks capacity for new patients, already serves as an epicenter of care in the heart of one of the nation's oldest LGBTQ+ neighborhoods," said Vice President of External Relations Katie Metos. "Maintaining the location for the new Halsted clinic within this community is consistent with Howard Brown's practice of placing clinics and outreach efforts within communities affected by social determinants of health, such as disproportionately high rates of HIV, and ensures patients feel safe accessing and receiving care."
Community and political leaders broke ground in March 2022 and construction has been ongoing since that time. This new facility has been five years in the making with funding coming from capital reserves, state and federal grants, lending and philanthropy from individual, corporate and foundation donors.
Howard Brown was founded in 1974 and serves over 35,000 patients annually at its 10 clinics in locations on the North, South and West Sides of Chicago. The new 71,000 square-foot, five-story facility will double patient capacity from the 7,500 patients it serves at the current Melrose clinic location.
The first floor of the new facility will have a lobby as well as a Walgreens retail store and culturally-competent pharmacy. Only the second floor will be utilized for the medical clinic initially, and the fourth floor for dental care. Later on, the medical clinic will be located on the second and third floors. The fifth floor will be an all-purpose training facility.
Metos added, "The new Halsted clinic will maintain its close connection to the surrounding community, staying true to the agency's mission of providing high-quality, affirming healthcare to everyone who seeks it. Especially in today's anti-LGBTQ climate, this building affirms that we deserve to be seen, we deserve to be healthy and we deserve to be here."
An especially important facet of the new clinic will be the dental services, officials said. Howard Brown Director of Construction, Design and Real Estate Frankie Reynolds noted that the agency has "a population of patients who travel to 63rd Street for appointments. We have recently been providing dental on the North side through the dental vanthere is pent up demand for competent, accessible dental care."
Howard Brown Chief Medical Director Dr. Patrick Gibbons added, "Although primary care providers can help a little bit with dental concerns, for the most part we do not have the expertise to handle cavities and beyond … . Having dental in this facility means that we can offer our patients access to providers able to see anyone regardless of their ability to pay."
Howard Brown Chief Dental Officer Dr. Robin Gay said, "We have a North Side contingent of patients, especially those who are low-income or on Medicaid, that are in need of affordable dental services, who will now have access."
The new location will offer more exam rooms, and improve access to gynecological- and anal-health services, according to Reynolds. Behavioral health and social services will be better supported at the new location as well, Reynolds added, noting that the more comprehensive scope of services will help clients stay on a continuum of care.
"With greater access, we promote greater adherence to important lifesaving and life-changing medications," Reynolds said.
Metos told Windy City Times that patients currently have to wait for four months for a return appointment at the Melrose clinic, while for new patients that wait is about six months. Organization officials anticipate the new facility will cut down on that wait time, with the expanded medical staff Howard Brown will be hiring.
Once the new facility is opened, there will be about 100 staff to serve patients' needs with a target of 170 staff members over time. Patient capacity will eventually reach 23,000 people and 65,000 patient encounters a year. The building was designed by the firm Eckenhoff Saunders, while construction was led by McHugh Construction.
"Providing quality health care and social services for the LGBTQ+ population in Chicago is more important now than ever," said Eckenhoff, Saunders Architects Senior Associate Mark Parrucci. "We are delighted to be partnering with HBH on its new Northalsted facility that will increase access to these necessary services. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have seen firsthand the much-needed benefits HBH provides throughout the city. This new project represents HBH's continued commitment to its cause, and I am proud to be a part of this endeavor."
"McHugh Construction was absolutely honored to have earned Howard Brown's confidence and trust to build this project that encompasses the mission of Howard Brown," added McHugh Construction President Michael Meagher. "Our relationship began with their owner representative, Inland Real Estate Group who led a selection process to select a firm that would deliver the best value."
The new Halsted clinic overall means means "simplified" healthcare, said HBH Chief Behavioral Health Officer Belinda Stiles. "Knowing that you can schedule to see your PCP, pick up your prescription, get labs done and check in with your behavioral health provider all in one visit to the clinic makes managing your health feel doable. This clinic will help our patients feel like their needs are truly being heard by their health care team."
Reynolds added, "We have been constrained by our sites' capacity to serve. This new Halsted facility allows us to increase access to care for people who have historically been left behind by healthcare systems. Whether that is PrEP, HRT or an mpox lesionHoward Brown wants to serve patients with gender-affirming, sex positive and accessible care."
Additionally, Howard Brown is looking at building a clinic on Chicago's South Side to meet the growing health and wellness needs of residents there. Howard Brown began providing services on the South Side in 2017, and has four clinics and a mobile health program operating in the Canaryville, Englewood and Hyde Park locations that serve more than 15,000 patients across 25,000 square feet.
See howardbrown.org/ .