Healthy Connections Inc.

Healthy Connections Inc.

City: Mena
Category: Nonprofit Organization of the Year
Year: 2019

Healthy Connections Inc. of Mena operates nine medical clinics in rural parts of western and central Arkansas and runs two programs — Arkansas Abstinence Education and Healthy Families America — to improve the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The nonprofit is a federally qualified health care center, meaning it can receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. Its patients, if they are not insured, pay a nominal fee for treatment at the clinics.

“In the medical community, it’s not about serving all. It’s only about serving those that, basically, they can make money with, and that’s not our mission,” CEO Tony Calandro said.

He started leading the organization about eight years ago, when it had just two locations, in Mount Ida and in Mena.

The nonprofit has grown a lot since then and plans on continuing to grow, Calandro said. It has purchased the shuttered Franklin Elementary School in Little Rock and will transform that space into a medical clinic and resource center, he said.

Calandro said Healthy Connections’ clinics help about 12,000 patients a year and the nonprofit now has 175 employees, compared with 35 employees when he took the reins.

It has added behavioral health services and education for diabetics as well, he said.

Calandro was also proud of the nonprofit providing about 350 dental sealants to kids in and around Polk County last year and setting up two on-site clinics for schoolchildren.

One clinic is in Malvern, and the other is in Mena. The goal is to keep children from missing school while waiting to be seen by their doctors and to give parents a break from having to take off work to take their children to the doctor.

Healthy Connections started off small 20 years ago, with a program that focused on caring for teen mothers and teaching them how to care for their babies, Calandro said. That program still exists as part of its Healthy Families America program, which is a family support program that involves home visits and is designed to help overburdened families who are at risk for mistreating children.

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