Helping the Uninsured

Helping the Uninsured

New executive director for Alexandria Health Care Services wants to consolidate services.

For Kristin Langlykke, the new executive director of Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services, helping the uninsured is a moral crusade. The nonprofit organization that she now heads is faced with the difficult challenge of providing health-care services to uninsured Alexandrians. It’s a task that she takes seriously, using the organization’s Arlandria Health Center as the focal point for delivering services to those who need it the most.

“We try to provide information as well as services to our clients,” Langlykke said. “That takes more time because you have to listen carefully.”

More than 45 million Americans have no health-care insurance, with low-income and minorities disproportionately shut out of the system. Although 15 percent of the general population has no health-care coverage, 20 percent of blacks are uninsured and 33 percent of Hispanics have no health insurance. In Virginia, about 962,000 people are uninsured.

“This is a population with fairly serious health care problems,” Langlykke said. “Many of these people have chronic illnesses, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease.”

The nonprofit provides immunizations, dental care, pregnancy testing, family planning, gynecological care, counseling and educational programs. Currently, its services are spread out over three locations: the health center at 2 East Glebe Rd., a family services center at 3802 Executive Avenue and a pediatrics center at 3804 Executive Avenue. But Langlykke said that she would like to consolidate the nonprofits programs.

“We’re currently looking for a building where we can all be together,” Langlykke said. “We want a building that is all ours.”

A NATIVE OF PEORIA, Ill., Langlykke studied English at Vassar College in New York before earning a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She then received a master’s degree in nursing from Simmons College in Boston and a master’s degree in education from Harvard University. Her attraction to the community-center model of health care was born of a desire to help those who could not help themselves.

“It was part of 1960s activism to try and make sure that people had access to health care,” Langlykke said. “That got me interested in accessible community-based health care.”

Langlykke was a member of the original board of the Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services in 1997 that was created to oversee the Arlandria Health Center. And now, after managing a health-care center for teenagers in the District of Columbia and working for the United States Agency for International Development in Peru, Langlykke has returned to Alexandria to run the neighborhood health services nonprofit organization that she helped to start.

“Alexandria is a community that’s dedicated to finding solutions, and I want to be a part of that,” Langlykke said. “The city has a large population of people who are uninsured, and the biggest challenge is going to be making sure that everybody has access.”

Since opening its opening in 1993, the Arlandria Health Center has helped more than 90,000 clients. Almost 80 percent of the families served by the center are uninsured, with limited access to health care and tightly restricted choices. Managed by the Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services, the center provides comprehensive services to low-income and uninsured families.

“The health-care system is not very user friendly,” Langlykke said. “And it’s very difficult to navigate if you don’t have a point of entry through an insurance company.”

AT A RECENT FUNDRAISER, an annual Cinco de Mayo celebration held at Jack Taylor’s Toyota, the nonprofit’s staff members mingled with financial supporters and elected leaders. The event had a festive atmosphere, with participants enjoying donated food from a host of local establishments: Café Salsa, Dairy Godmother, Hard Times Café, Hector’s Place, Las Tapas, Los Amigos, Los Tios, Spectrum Restaurant, St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub, Red Poppy Catering, Taqueria Poblano, Unwinded and Whole Foods.

“Those of you who came here in a Toyota, thank you,” Jack Taylor told the crowd. “For those who didn’t, I hope your car starts.”

Taylor presented the nonprofit with a $5,000 check, commenting that 32 percent of his employees are Hispanic. He thanked the organization, opening up his establishment for the annual fundraising celebration.

“There are a lot of desperate people out there,” said Dr. Roger Chinery, a medical director at the nonprofit’s clinic. “And they need help.”

Chinery told a story about a woman who recently came to the Arlandria Health Center with a critical medical condition. He said that she arrived in the clinic saying that she had neck and arm pain.

“If she hadn’t come to see us, she probably would have ended up paralyzed,” Chinery said. “But the surgeon who ended up attending to her was the same one who attended to Christopher Reeve.”

For Virginia Sen. Patsy Ticer (D-30), the Arlandria Health Center is an important part of the community — one that offers compassionate care to a group of people in need of help. She said that one can evaluate the effectiveness of the health center by the frequency with which it’s used.

“There are people in there all the time,” Ticer said. “This place has really pulled itself up by its bootstraps, and it’s got a great reputation in the community.”