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Riverwest Health Initiative

It’s no secret in the medical community that when an uninsured person needs urgent medical care, the only recourse usually available is the local emergency room. Emergency room care is more expensive and does not focus on the patient long term condition or treatment. After the patient’s condition has been stabilized, they are usually referred to clinics that require insurance or a cash payment. Many of these patients are “lost to follow-up.” Emergent care isn’t set up for primary or preventative care.

The under-insured can consist/include students, unemployed, seniors, and children. People who work part time usually aren’t offered health care benefits. For people who have been laid off COBRA insurance can be an option. However, when you sign up for COBRA, your insurance coverage will be similar but you must pay the same premium before you were laid off/fired plus the amount your former employer paid for you. If you’re getting coverage for yourself, you may have to pay up to $400 per month. A family plan can run over $1000 per month. The amounts depend on what was previously provided in your employer health plan.

The Riverwest Health Initiative helps individuals and families navigate through the maze of health care resources. It has engaged the neighborhood as an active partner. The RHI was started seven years ago to help support the physical and mental health in the Riverwest community. Partners include the Medical College of Wisconsin, Children’s Outing Association, UWM College of Nursing, and Columbia St. Mary’s. The initiative focuses on establishing care for the uninsured, low cost community clinics, senior services, and other community services such as food, nutrition and disability resources. In 2005, the initiative received a $450,000 grant from the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program.

For additional information about the Initiative, please contact Kris Peterka who is based at Children’s Outing Association, (COA) but will have hours at the Wright Street Resource Center. The Center is located at 901 East Wright Street. The Center features a computer lab, free store, work exchange, health referral and community organizing services. The COA sponsors programs to help families through early childhood education, family support, youth development, and basic adult education. Their phone number is 414-374-8181. The phone number for the Riverwest Health Initiative is 414-263-8383, ext. 139. For a comprehensive listing of services and hours of operation, please visit the following website:

Article written by Carla Clark, Rheumatology
© 2015 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 12/08/2011