Exclusive Q&A: HealthRIGHT 360's Vitka Eisen Discusses The Real Estate Needs of Healthcare Companies
Addiction recovery is an important healthcare field with a host of unique challenges. Bisnow caught up with HealthRIGHT 360 CEO Vitka Eisen, one of our speakers at The State of San Francisco Healthcare on June 22 at Hotel Nikko.
Vitka has dedicated her life to helping those who struggle with substance use disorder, mental health challenges and physical condition. She has nearly three decades of experience in human services, including youth treatment-oriented education services and community-based and in-prison substance use disorder treatment programs. A long-term veteran of HealthRIGHT 360, she was named CEO in 2010 and proceeded to strengthen the organization through a series of strategic mergers.
Bisnow spoke to Vitka on how real estate issues influence her strategy to provide care for some of society's most at-risk individuals.
Bisnow: Who does HealthRIGHT 360 serve?
Vitka Eisen: HealthRIGHT 360 serves over 29,000 men, women and children across California. We focus on serving low-income, homeless, and post-incarceration communities with services that include primary health care, medication-assisted treatment, substance use disorder and mental health treatment, and reentry and criminal justice services.
Bisnow: Your organization has a very specific mission and needs. What do require out of your real estate?
Vitka Eisen: HealthRIGHT 360 currently operates four primary medical clinics in San Francisco—all are licensed to operate under the federal guidelines of the Health Resource Services Agency (HRSA) and have specific location requirements. As an FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center), our ability to provide treatment has been granted to each specific location to serve a “medically underserved population” in a “medically underserved area.”
The volatility of the rental market in CA, particularly in S.F., was the main motivation behind our purchase of a building at a central location downtown. We wanted to reduce the impact that rent had on our operating costs, but as we are bound by federal location guidelines, we had to locate a building that was more or less in the backyard of our current Mission Street clinic. The location of our FQHCs must be approved by HRSA, cannot create a barrier to treatment for current or future clients, and cannot be seen as a duplication of service where other FQHCs or community healthcare organizations are currently operating similar services.
The building ultimately purchased in 2013 is a block away from the current Mission Street site, and is being restored and upgraded into a five-story, 50k SF integrated healthcare center, which will provide primary medical care, mental health services, substance use disorder treatment, pharmacy, dentistry and support services that include housing referral, employment counseling, computer literacy and adult high school education completion. With the transformation of this World War I era building, we have been able to work with the architects to design the professional space needed by our practitioners, therapists and counselors while creating an inviting, modern environment that will result in the best treatment for our clients. Our new health center will open in 2017.
Bisnow: What role does access to affordable housing play in the recovery process?
Vitka Eisen: If lacking the basic and vital need of having a safe place to reside, our clients may not be able to attend treatment programs or maintain their recovery. When people lack this most basic human need, their lives are destabilized and it is easy to revert to old survival/subsistence/coping skills (theft, substance use, drug sales, abusive relationships) that increase their likelihood of relapse and/or criminal justice involvement. Therefore, the provision of safe, affordable housing is a particularly crucial need that must be addressed in order to afford people a realistic opportunity at long-term recovery from substance use disorder.
Bisnow: Is there anything the city can do or do better to assist you?
Vitka Eisen: We are currently raising funds for our capital campaign to sustain our new health center that will open in early 2017. Our new innovative and integrated health center secures our ability to stay in S.F. amidst the challenging rental environment, and continue to provide services to our clients and other underserved and vulnerable communities in S.F.
Financial support from individuals, the community and S.F.’s vibrant business community is essential to the success of our mission to provide healthcare to all who need it, regardless of their ability to pay. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and we should all contribute to help individuals rise from the depths of addiction, poverty, mental health afflictions, incarceration and marginalization.