& Free Trip to Margaritaville
Those are the words staff and doctors of Lone Star Family Health Center (LSFHC) in Huntsville continually use when describing their 5,775 square foot facility, located at 227 State Highway 75 North. Their mission is to provide compassionate, affordable healthcare and prepare tomorrow’s family medicine professionals. That mission includes a focus on those who are underserved, uninsured, and underprivileged. LSFHC is a community non-profit, led by a volunteer board of directors, 51 percent of whom must be clients of the health center.
The LSFHC Huntsville location prides itself on having that smaller community, family atmosphere for its patients and staff. The walls are adorned with vibrant, full color photos of Walker County’s most memorable establishments. A striking picture of the Sam Houston statue greets patients in the waiting area, followed by photos of other notable establishments such as Kings Candies, Café Texan, Sam Houston Museum, the Steamboat House, and the front of Huntsville High School in 1929.
LSFHC started in 1979 as a Family Medicine Residency Program located in Conroe. In 2002, they joined in partnership with Conroe Medical Education Foundation and Conroe Hospital to be renamed LSFHC and open as a health center in Conroe. Once federally qualified in 2004, LSFHC continued to expand into Spring, Grangerland, and Willis with satellite offices. In November 2020, LSFHC made its way to Huntsville. The Huntsville location is the largest of the satellite offices, with an in-house pharmacy, nine exam rooms (two of which can also serve as procedure rooms), and a counseling room. They offer family medicine, gynecology, and limited obstetric services.
Candice Pavlock manages the Huntsville location and is no stranger to healthcare or serving others. She has been in the medical field since 2004 and has had positions in almost every department, working her way up to the current management position with LSFHC. Her roots run deep in the medical field. As the daughter of a nurse and former firefighter paramedic and niece of a flight nurse, Pavlock says she grew up watching her family help those with medical needs. “I’ve always tried to serve people – it’s my calling,” she explains. “I did not go to nursing school, so this was the best way to help others and stay in the ‘family business.’”
While LSFHC does take commercial insurance and all patients, their target population of just over 24,000 are those who do not have insurance, are underinsured, or just may not be able to afford a conventional doctor’s office visit.
One factor that sets LSFCH apart and helps them reach their target population is the Sliding Fee Discount Program. The program is offered to those living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level to help cover out of pocket costs for patients with or without insurance. The criteria are based on household income and family size. Eligibility interviews can be conducted daily at the Huntsville clinic. In 2020, over $2 million in sliding fee discounts, across all locations, were extended to LSFHC patients. “It’s a tremendous difference when you pay $25 for a regular doctor’s visit versus $150, and you won’t get a big bill in the mail after you leave,” said Pavlock.
Along with the sliding fee program, LSFHC also accepts many insurance plans that have a smaller network, including Medicaid and Marketplace plans. For example, Pavlock says they have retired patients who no longer have insurance or very limited insurance and apply for the sliding scale program.
“There is a significant need for high-quality, low-cost primary care services in Walker County,” said LSFHC Chief Executive Officer Karen Harwell. “Lone Star is equipped to bring compassionate care to residents of Walker County who do not have a current health home.” According to Harwell, less than five percent of those in Walker County who need LSFHC services are receiving them from an existing facility. Those with transportation options are traveling to Madisonville, Willis, or beyond.
There are currently two full-time, medically board-certified doctors on staff with two medical assistants. “We have such great doctors who really care and listen to their patients,” said Pavlock. “They make sure our patients get what they need. You’re not just a number here.”
Dr. Kim Norris has been a Huntsville resident for the last two years and is a 2005 graduate of the Conroe Family Medicine Residency Program. However, her ties to the community reach beyond the health center. Her husband works at Alpha Omega Academy as an administrator and coach.
Also helping residents of Walker County and surrounding areas is Dr. Lawrence Ede who is their primary physician and another graduate of Lone Star’s residency program. A native of Nigeria, Ede completed medical school twice (Nigeria and New York) and founded the Holistic Care Education and Health Foundation in Nigeria. “A dream of mine is to improve care in rural and underserved communities in my adopted country, said Ede. “Once I was in medical school, I learned a lot of diseases can be prevented.”
From newborn to the elderly, Lone Star provides services for all ages. “Our emphasis is becoming a patient’s health home,” stated Harwell. “Primary care is extremely important for long-term health outcomes; having a health home that can make sure you stay on track with preventative health measures from adolescence through adulthood and into your golden years is key to staying healthy and avoiding costly medical bills later in life. Good overall health is difficult to maintain with occasional trips to urgent care or the emergency room.”
LSFHC offers a variety of services from your traditional annual checkup to counseling services for youth and adults. “We offer full service, comprehensive services, and a ton of programs not offered anywhere else in the area,” says Pavlock.
As you walk into the brand-new building, to the right patients will find an in-house pharmacy. This allows patients to fill prescriptions on site instead of making another stop when they leave the health center. The pharmacy is manned with technicians to fill prescriptions, but patients may also teleconference with a pharmacist in Conroe virtually through an iPad. “This is a highlight in itself because clinics usually don’t have that on site,” said Pavlock. The pharmacy is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Gustavo Gonzales, a licensed professional counselor, is on site every Tuesday to offer patients one hour counseling sessions for both mental and behavioral health. If patients are not able to make it to the office, sessions may be done virtually via Zoom. “Sometimes people just need a safe outlet to talk to someone,” said Pavlock. “It could be as simple as a lost job due to COVID.”
When asked what health issues they see most, Pavlock and Courtney Galle, LSFHC Marketing and Communications Manager, were quick to name diabetes as one of the top diagnoses they see. To help those patients, glucose checks can be done at LSFHC, along with regular checkups to make sure medication is working properly and blood sugar levels are on track.
Diabetic patients are also able to apply for discounted insulin prescriptions. Without insurance, the cost of insulin can be hundreds of dollars, and Pavlock says people in poverty just can not afford insulin at full cost.
Diabetic and nutrition classes are also offered (classes are hosted live in the Conroe office, but Walker County residents may log into Zoom and join the classes). “We try to educate our patients and help them learn how to live with diabetes,” said Pavlock.
LSFHC offers a variety of services for women’s health, including basic well woman exams. First, free breast cancer screenings and exams are offered. Once the screening is done, mammogram orders are given which can be filled at the patient’s desired location or through The Rose, a 3D mobile mammography service, which travels to the clinic and provides free mammograms.
Gynecology services are also offered, such as cervical cancer screenings, pap smears, and pregnancy testing.
In the fall, LSFHC Huntsville will be joining the other satellite offices in the annual “Don’t Miss the Bus” back to school health campaign. The clinic will offer designated times where underinsured or uninsured children can get free well child visits and vaccines in time for school.
Pavlock said they also offer discounted rates for lab work such as routine blood tests, bloodwork for prostate screening, pregnancy tests, and other common lab work.
In the technology department, LSFHC is keeping up with the times for heart patients. A new state of the art electrocardiogram (EKG) machine is available in the Huntsville office to monitor and evaluate possible heart problems in a patient.
When asked what else makes LSFHC unique, Pavlock’s answer was simple.
“We’re family here, and we will take care of you like you are part of our family,” said Pavlock. “We all go above and beyond for our patients.”
227 State Highway 75 N #130
Huntsville, TX 77320
Phone: (936) 523-5227