Heartland Receives Grant to Expand Services for Children with Developmental Delays 

LAWRENCE, KAN., AUG. 9, 2023 – Heartland Community Health Center, a Federally Qualified Community Health Center (FQHC), serving 20 rural and urban counties in Northeastern Kansas, has been awarded an Early Childhood Development (ECD) grant from the Bureau of Primary Health Care. The grant funding, aimed at improving developmental outcomes among children aged 0-5, will enable Heartland to expand its workforce to include Community Health Workers dedicated to pediatric services for families with developmental delays. Heartland is one of only three health centers in the state to receive this award.  


Heartland Community Health Center’s integrated services encompass primary care, mental and behavioral health, dental care, pediatric care, and essential wrap-around services such as an onsite food pantry. In 2022 alone, Heartland cared for 13,787 children between the ages of 0-17, positioning itself as a vital resource for the region’s pediatric healthcare needs. 


The Early Childhood Development grant will allow Heartland to bolster its efforts in developmental evaluations for children aged 0-5 and facilitate timely follow-up services. The addition of dedicated Community Health Workers will play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between underserved populations and essential healthcare services. These workers will collaborate closely with clinical staff to ensure seamless care coordination, patient-centered support, and linkage to vital community resources. 


Chrissy Heikkila, Director of Grants of Heartland Community Health Center, expressed the organization’s enthusiasm for the grant award, stating, “This funding provides us with a unique opportunity to enhance our impact on the developmental health of our youngest patients. Our dedicated team, in partnership with the invaluable Community Health Workers, will be instrumental in addressing health disparities and promoting positive outcomes for children and families.” 


Building on its successful track record of collaboration with community partners, such as local Head Start Programs and area school districts, Heartland is committed to leveraging its relationships to amplify the impact of the Early Childhood Development grant. By addressing not only the physical health of children but also their families’ broader social determinants of health, Heartland aims to combat health disparities and inequities that exist in the state.  


“We are elated to embark on this transformative journey with the support of the Early Childhood Development grant,” said Lisa Russell, Chief Clinical Officer. “At Heartland Community Health Center, we have always believed in the power of community-driven care, and this grant allows us to take that commitment to the next level. By expanding our Community Health Worker team, we are not only enhancing the health and wellbeing of our youngest patients but also reinforcing our bonds with families and partners in the communities we serve. Together, we are building a stronger, healthier future for every child.” 


As Heartland Community Health Center continues to experience exponential growth, with a 228% increase in total patients since 2019, its mission to welcome all who need care remains at the forefront. The ECD grant will enable the center to focus on its youngest patients, leveraging existing efforts to address health disparities and outcomes. 


Heartland’s Best of Lawrence pediatric clinic, Panda Pediatrics, will play a key role in the Early Childhood Development expansion.  


“We are thrilled about the opportunities that the Early Childhood Development grant will bring. Our team strives to provide exceptional care for children, and this grant enables us to extend our reach even further,” said Dr. Marshall Kelley, Lead Pediatrician at Panda Pediatrics. “The addition of Community Health Workers will empower us to create a seamless continuum of care, ensuring that every child receives the support they need to thrive. We’re excited to collaborate with families and the broader community to make a lasting impact on early childhood development.” 


The ECD grant comes at the heels of Heartland’s recent announcement of plans to expand their pediatric psychiatry and mental health services though their Building Bright Futures campaign. The expansion is set to include the introduction of additional experienced pediatric psychiatrists and licensed therapists, along with construction of a designated building to provide trauma informed care to be completed by September 2024. 


“The Early Childhood Development grant and Heartland’s Building Bright Futures campaign stand as powerful testaments to Heartland’s commitment to the wellbeing and potential of every child in our community,” said Elizabeth Keever, Chief Development Officer. “These initiatives represent the heart of Heartland’s mission, embodying our dedication to ensuring that every child receives the support, care, and resources they need to thrive. By expanding our pediatric services, we are creating a transformative space where families find not just medical care, but a nurturing environment that fosters growth, resilience, and a brighter future for generations to come.” 

Dr. Goodnight, Pediatrician at Heartland Panda Pediatrics, holding a patient