Proposed Little Village Community Center Seeks to Improve Health Equity – NBC Chicago

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Ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, advocates in Chicago are continuing his mission of inclusion, working to ensure marginalized communities have equal access to health care.

Those behind the 11-year project called “Focal Point,” an initiative that seeks to provide the city’s West and Southwest side communities greater opportunity to thrive, hope to see their ideas come to fruition.

Fifty seven years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped into Chicago, his quest for equitable health care remains unfinished, according to Northwestern University History Professor Kevin Boyle.

“When Dr. King came to Chicago and he said equitable health care was fundamental to a more just American, that’s a problem we still live with,” the professor said.

Marlena Johnsone, a single mother of two living paycheck to paycheck, said her community doesn’t have easy access to health care.

“…Even though we have medical cards it is still hard to access it, because some of the medical benefits cover the medicine and some don’t,” she explained.

Sunday, on the actual day of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Saint Anthony Hospital and the organization Mothers Opposed To Violence explained a new community center would answer the solution for equitable health care.

“The focal point community campus will provide state-of-the-art quality care facilities to communities that normally wouldn’t have access to them,” said Jim Sifuentes, senior vice president of Saint Anthony’s Hospital.

The center, which would be located at South Kedzie Avenue and West 31st Street, would primarily serve Chicago’s South and Southwest sides and cost around $600 to $800 million. Saint Anthony Hospital, which would be relocated from its current side, would be included in the large complex.

Activists are now calling on elected officials for additional funding to make that vision a reality.

“I know you’ve given, but we may need to give a little bit more because Focal Point is just that important,” said Dr. Tyla Courtney with Saint Anthony’s Hospital.

NBC 5 reached out to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office about the community center proposal, but had yet to hear back Sunday afternoon.

“I just hope and pray that we do get all that we need in our community because we definitely need it,” said Johnson.

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