For Shameka Cornelius, Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC) is more than just a community clinic. To her, OBCC is family.
The clinic provides medical, dental, mental health and nutrition services to all families, regardless of their ability to pay. It also offers a unique model of care that addresses the socioeconomic and environmental roots of illness.
Since Cornelius was a little girl, OBCC has been her medical home. From dental visits to well-child check-ups, Cornelius has fond memories of the clinic. She remembers walking from her grandmother’s house just blocks away in Seattle’s Central District to go to clinic appointments. For her, it never felt like going to the doctor. She was always excited to see the smiling faces of her care team.
“I still remember the very first fish tanks they had,” Cornelius said as she laughed. “Those were my first fish. You get your tokens when you go to the dentist and pick out a book after getting your shots. They even had popsicles sometimes.”
Cornelius says above all else, it’s the people that have made OBCC so special to her.
“Everyone should experience that type of service and a clinic of home and togetherness,” Cornelius said. “They actually care at OBCC. Everybody there is really friendly. For me, I wanted my kids to experience the same care that I received. The same people have been there since I was young. You can tell it’s not just work for them; they actually have a passion to be there.”
Her three children have grown up going to the clinic. They have pressed their tiny hands against the fish tanks, toddled the same halls she once did, and they’ve even seen some of the same providers and nurses she grew up with.
“It’s hard to put into words what OBCC means to us,” Cornelius said.
Meeting families where they are
Today, the Central District where Cornelius grew up has drastically changed. Cornelius said they had to sell her grandmother’s house when property values started increasing. She couldn’t afford to stay. It’s a familiar story for many who grew up in the area. Families have been forced to move to south Seattle to find more affordable housing.
To meet the needs of the community, Seattle Children’s will open a second OBCC location in 2021, conveniently located close to the Othello Link light rail station in Seattle’s Rainier Valley. The second location will be approximately 35,000 square-feet and is expected to have twice the capacity as Seattle Children’s current OBCC Yesler facility. It will be located closer to the 75 percent of OBCC patient families who have moved from the Central District to south Seattle and south King County for more affordable housing.
The clinic will also be part of a unique urban community concept called “Othello Square.” The site will provide families convenient access to services such as a charter high school, an economic opportunity center, a computer lab, an early learning center, community meeting spaces, and mixed-income housing for rent and ownership. Othello Square is designed to strengthen the local neighborhood – predominately composed of ethnically diverse families, immigrant and refugee communities and lower-income families.
The original OBCC, located in the Central District, will be renovated. The clinic will continue to serve families in the Central District and adjacent neighborhoods, as well as communities to the north and west.
“We’re dedicated to better serving the community by meeting the needs of our patients and families where they are,” Dr. Benjamin Danielson, senior medical director of OBCC, said. “Gentrification has pushed many of our families out of Seattle’s Central District, away from the services they need. At OBCC, we’re working to address the challenges that keep families awake at night. Together, we can create a brighter future for our children.”
On September 21, Seattle Children’s will be hosting a community event to dedicate the site of the new Othello location. The event is from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and will include activity booths and entertainment.
Cornelius, a patient ambassador for It Starts With Yes: The Campaign for Seattle Children’s, and her family will be there to celebrate. She’s excited more families like hers will soon have access to the care they need.
“OBCC has meant a lot to me,” Cornelius said. “It was always there for me, and I’m so happy that the second location means it will be there for even more families in need.”