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MAVEN Project brings specialty care to Illinois Free and Charitable clinics thanks to key partners

Free and charitable clinics (FCCs) in Illinois serve more than 100,000 low-income and under- and uninsured patients each year. Thanks to FCC providers, staff and volunteers, patients can access everything from routine vaccinations and preventive care to management of illnesses like diabetes and mental health challenges.

The Illinois Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (IAFCC) and VNA Foundation are longtime partners and together they seek out opportunities to support these invaluable community resources.

Thanks to grant funding from VNA Foundation and support from IAFCC, MAVEN Project’s expert physician volunteers are available to health care providers at six FCCs in the greater Chicago area. Through medical consultations, medical education and mentoring, MAVEN Project makes specialty care more accessible for patients served by the FCCs.

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The collaboration between IAFCC, VNA Foundation and MAVEN Project began in 2018 with three clinics and has since grown to include Bolingbrook Christian Health Center, Chicago Women’s Health Center, Family Health Partnership Clinic, The Night Ministry, Will-Grundy Medical Clinic and the Interprofessional Community Clinic at Rosalind Franklin University. Together, these clinics provide vital health care services to thousands of immigrants, unhoused individuals, members of the LGBTQ and transgender community, individuals living in poverty and many more.

IAFCC supports free and charitable clinics by helping them secure the resources they need to be successful, whether that be advocating for clinics and patients; identifying and engaging key partners; or ensuring the availability of informative data.

“We’re always looking for ways to help clinics provide the best care possible,” shared Melissa Maguire, Executive Director, Illinois Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. “These are organizations that never turn people away, regardless of their ability to pay. Accessing specialists for their patients is extremely challenging. MAVEN Project is exactly what they need.”

The VNA Foundation has supported nonprofit agencies that serve medically underserved populations in metro Chicago for more than 25 years. Due to the services they provide, FCCs represent a core group of VNA grantees, with support awarded to both individual clinics and IAFCC.

“FCCs in Illinois struggle to find specialty care and resources for their patients. VNA helped to bring MAVEN Project to Illinois because it builds the capacity of FCC primary care providers by offering medical consults, education and mentoring,” shared Claudia Baier, Director of Community Engagement/Senior Program Officer, VNA Foundation. “Among other benefits, MAVEN Project’s expert physicians assist FCC providers with confirming treatment plans and identifying appropriate interventions. This is incredibly valuable as it often makes additional testing – which can be expensive and out of reach to FCC patients — unnecessary.”

When the pilot program began, just on the cusp of the COVID-19 pandemic, MAVEN Project’s continuing medical education offerings were the focus. IAFCC and VNA Foundation were eager to help clinic providers grow their knowledge and expand their skill sets. But it quickly grew beyond that.

“Clinics are beginning to see patients with Long COVID and the medical community is navigating this new condition as best it can,” Maguire added. “As providers in clinics work with these patients it will be invaluable to have the rapid contact with specialist expertise that MAVEN Project provides.”

Looking ahead, the three groups are working together to develop best practices for partnering with FCCs. MAVEN Project has already surveyed its partner clinics in Illinois, visited the state to get a hands-on look the unique needs of the clinics being served, and is facilitating ongoing workgroups.  With this information, the partners will better understand barriers to MAVEN Project utilization, and develop potential solutions that could assist FCCs across the country with implementing new opportunities.

“We are excited to identify practices that better serve our FCC partners,” Baier added, “and we value MAVEN’s dedication to this important service sector.”

“We appreciate that MAVEN Project has been responsive to our clinics’ needs and continues to provide high-touch services that ensures providers are supported,” Maguire said. “We look forward to years of continued partnership.”


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