David Raines Community Health Centers are expanding its mission to help keep people of all ages out of the hospital as it celebrates a milestone.

Earlier this year, the organization started managing health centers at four Caddo Parish schools. Christus Health founded the centers at Atkins and J.S. Clark elementary schools, Linwood Public Charter School and Woodlawn Leadership Academy and will remain involved, but David Raines is handling day-to-day operations.

“What we bring to the table is access to the full array of services we offer, which is not just medical, but dental and behavioral health,” said David Raines CEO Willie White. “I think more importantly, we’re able to provide those services year-round. Once a child becomes a patient, they can go to any David Raines Center.”

“The clinics help the entire family by providing immediate service to children who get sick at school,” said Katherine Laster, director of nursing with the Caddo Parish school system. The four locations serve 2,000 to 3,000 children every year.

“We want to keep kids healthy and keep them in the classroom,” Laster said.

Laster said staff members from David Raines work side-by-side with school system nurses. Clinic staffers provide check-ups, take care of sudden illnesses, give students routine and emergency medicine and get the word out about contagious conditions like scabies.

“Our nurses are pulled so tight these days, we love any help we can get,” she said.

White said David Raines staff members at the clinics also want to help family members get access to doctors and dentists, part of the organization’s goal of helping people in poverty and working families get preventive and primary care to keep them healthy. He sees the new partnership as a prime opportunity for more expansion.

“There are a significant number of schools in Caddo Parish that are Title I schools. It’s disheartening to know that we have so many schools with such levels of poverty,” he said. “I think that’s a real opportunity, to have a positive impact on the lives of our children.”

Laster agrees that several schools would benefit from campus clinics.

“I would love to see it grow,” she said.

David Raines had a humble beginning as the Cooper Road Medical Clinic, a satellite of LSU Hospital in Shreveport. As part of Louisiana’s charity hospital network, the clinic saw patients for free starting in 1971.

In 1992, David Raines was organized as a federally qualified health center and started providing the same services to low-income, primarily African-American residents in what is now called the Martin Luther King Junior area of Shreveport.

It’s named after millionaire businessman and philanthropist David Herndon Raines, who supported African-American education and social services for teen boys in trouble with the law. Raines donated the land where the clinic and a community center now sit.

In 1996, David Raines started growing beyond Shreveport, opening a health center in the north Caddo Parish community of Gilliam. Since then, the organization has added health centers in Haynesville, Minden and Bossier City, and most recently a clinic on West 70th Street in Shreveport. The growth continues.

“We’re expanding our Gilliam facility for the first time. We broke ground on that a couple of weeks ago. We’re adding 1,600 square-feet, which will house additional medical and dental exam rooms,” White said.

David Raines’s mission hasn’t changed even as services expanded. The center treats people with or without insurance and offers a sliding fee scale to help people afford care. The centers have become a one-stop spot for health care, dentistry, behavioral health and prescriptions.

“We have almost 17,000 patients that used our facilities in 2016. We’re expecting that to continue to grow,” White said.

The staff has also grown, from 20 to 150 employees — and the network of health centers now has an administration building instead of offices shoehorned into clinic sites.

“When I first started working here, we would have our staff meeting in the waiting room (at the David Raines Road clinic) and we would have chairs left over,” White recalled, laughing. “I’ve been blessed to be able to be here and see that change.”

David Raines was one of the local leaders in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, but now White said staff members are keeping a close eye on the fate of that program. They’re also waiting on word about federal money as Congress grapples with continued funding for the government, hurricane relief money and the United States debt ceiling.

“One of the good things is, we do have bipartisan support, but there’s just so much uncertainty in Washington right now,” White said.

White said David Raines is still committed to providing health care directly and by supporting health careers education programs despite the uncertainty. Since 2010, David Raines has also partnered with Southern University Shreveport to help grow the health care workforce in northwest Louisiana. Each year David Raines provides scholarships to students in SUSLA’s allied health programs and has contributed more than $70,000 to help students afford school. David Raines started with $500 scholarships to each student, but now the organization gives each person $2,000. White said David Raines also hopes to increase the number of scholarship recipients each year.

“It’s our way of giving back, and it’s just a little selfish, too, because we need workforce development, and we’re hoping some of those students will eventually come back and work with us,” White said.