National Health Center Week (August 6 – 12) is an annual celebration to raise awareness about the mission and accomplishments of America’s health centers.
This celebration is significant to Central City Concern (CCC) as a Federally Qualified Health Center serving patients across 13 sites. Our providers meet our patients where they are, offering judgment-free treatment and support.
In 2022, CCC’s passionate health services staff served:
- 8,967 people in need, including 5.418 who were experiencing homelessness
- 7,435 patients with primary and preventive care.
- 2,912 patients needing mental health support.
This year, we introduce you to a few of CCC’s amazing health care professionals. CCC offers a wide variety of health care services, and it takes committed people in all kinds of roles to serve our community. From medical assistants to recovery mentors, everyone’s work is crucial to help our patients build healthy lives.
Case Manager at Karibu
Joining CCC’s Karibu program as a case manager has allowed Alonzo Roper to use his lived experience in a positive way. As someone with a history of involvement in the criminal justice system, he’s able to personally relate to and connect with clients to offer them nonjudgmental care and support. “Due to my past, I feel like being a case manager is the perfect position for me because I am able to meet people right where they are and have a connection,” he said.
From handling referrals, conducting screenings, coordinating services and offering support and advocacy, Alonzo helps clients change their lives. “I can plant the seed with a little water, but it’s on them to stay in the sun and grow,” he said. “I believe my work impacts them positively, but at the same time, I’m not here for the ‘This is what you need to do.’ I’m here for the, ‘Hey, you know how to do it. Let’s make it happen.’ Because sometimes that’s all we need, as Black men, is encouragement. I’m just trying to give the people who have been voiceless a voice.”
In the past, Alonzo himself looked for support but couldn’t find resources that felt safe and welcoming. It wasn’t until he discovered Karibu, a culturally specific program providing stabilization and treatment preparation for Black and African American adults and applied for a position that he felt truly understood and welcomed and wanted to be a part of providing that experience to other people. “They gave me a chance to show who I really am, who I always hid from being, and now I get to show that back to people and give that back to people. That’s the biggest gift and joy for me.”
Client Access Supervisor at Blackburn Center
Having previously worked in customer service roles, Helki Watson-Guardado wanted to find more meaningful work that would align with her passion for helping others. She found that at CCC. “I have always wanted to help people, and CCC allows me to have a greater impact than any other workplace I have been in,” she said. “Every day, I feel satisfied knowing that I can genuinely make a difference.”
Helki was recently promoted from lead receptionist to client access supervisor at Blackburn and plays a crucial role in shaping clients’ experiences. She ensures every client feels cared for through her work preparing the team, providing support, training new employees and managing the front desk. “I want people to feel like it’s a safe space for them, where they can come in and be treated like the person they are,” she said.
A crucial part of Helki and her team’s job is making sure every client receives proper care. “We don’t turn anybody away. That’s important to me—knowing that anybody who walks in the door can get taken care of no matter what.” She and her team go above and beyond to help each patient because they know their dedication and support can make a difference in their lives. Helki believes “when people work here, it’s because they really care about and love the people they serve.”
Medical Assistant at Old Town Clinic
David Mosqueira’s journey to becoming a medical assistant at Old Town Clinic reflects a long-held desire to work in the medical field. Despite initially pursuing other paths, such as lighting design and restaurant management, their interest in health care never left them. However, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, prompting them to reevaluate their career choices, that they decided to take the leap into the medical field. They enrolled in school and gained essential medical assisting experience at a private clinic before finding a fulfilling role at CCC.
David’s decision to join CCC was fueled by their desire for a more community-oriented work environment. After two years of working at the private clinic, they yearned for a change and wanted to work more closely with the public. “I live downtown. So I see all day long what the lack of public health funding really does to a society…so I decided to leave and find something more in social medicine, and I found CCC,” said David.
Since joining CCC, David has found fulfillment in their role as a medical assistant. Thriving in the dynamic and unpredictable environment of primary care, they foster a welcoming and supportive atmosphere to ensure each patient feels heard. “In the medical industry, a lot of people have had negative interactions. And at the end of the day, it comes down to not being heard and facing the biases we all carry with us. Some of our patients see that bias every single day, whenever they go. My biggest goal is to be able to give somebody a sanctuary where, even if it’s just for 20 minutes, somebody is listening to their needs. Because sometimes we can’t fix everything, but at the very least, we can hear them out,” they said.
Subacute Technician at Hooper Detoxification Stabilization Center
Cassandra Collins’s journey to working at Hooper began after her mother’s passing. Concerned about Cassandra’s well-being, those around her thought she needed something to stay strong and not fall back into her previous struggles with addiction. One friend invited her to work at Hooper, suggesting it might be just what she needed.
Initially, Cassandra aimed to work in laundry or janitorial services. However, after a heartfelt conversation, in which she expressed her wish to give back to the community that helped her recover, she was offered the position of subacute technician. Her role is to maintain a calm environment and ensure the well-being of the clients.
In her 18 years at Hooper, Cassandra has found joy in encouraging others, offering the compassion and understanding she wished for during her own challenging times. “I’ve been through it all, and I know how important it is to have someone say, ‘It’s gonna be okay.’ That’s all I wanted to hear when I was going through tough times. So, after my mother’s passing, I joined Hooper with the intention of giving back. I want each client to know they are somebody and shouldn’t give up on themselves. Encouraging positive change is what this place is all about, and I genuinely enjoy being part of that process.”
Substance Use Disorder Counselor and Recovery Mentor at Puentes
Like many CCC employees, Roberto Parades began his journey as a client. He went through the Puentes program in 2016 when he was struggling with substance use disorder and graduated in 2017. Afterward, he stayed connected with his mentor, who recommended he work at Eastside Concern, which later merged into Blackburn. Motivated by his positive experience with CCC and the desire to give back to others, he pursued training as a Certified Recovery Mentor and counselor. In 2021, he joined Puentes.
As a counselor and recovery mentor, Roberto plays a crucial role as the first point of contact for clients seeking services. Through one-on-one and group counseling sessions, he offers clients support during their recovery and guides them in accessing resources available both within the program and the community.
Roberto believes that ensuring clients feel comfortable, safe and supported at Puentes is crucial. One of the key factors that contributes to this experience is the ability to connect with clients on a personal level. Puentes is a culturally specific outpatient program providing substance use disorder services to the Latinx community, and Roberto believes that “It’s very important meeting the client for the first time and for them to see somebody they can relate to. And without disclosing too much information to the client, letting them know that you understand that you’ve been there is super helpful because they can see that recovery does work, that the program does work if they put effort into it.”
Achieving Central City Concern’s mission would be impossible without dedicated, compassionate people. CCC’s work environment is collaborative, supportive and offers generous benefits. Want a career that makes a difference?