MIAMI GARDENS — Congresswoman Frederica Wilson has directed a task force to come up with recommendations on whether the Jessie Trice Community Health Center of Florida International University (FIU) should control a new facility being constructed in the Northside community.
The task force will meet at noon Wednesday, Aug. 21, at FIU’s main campus and will be expected to offer proposals as soon as possible.
Wilson, D-Fla., acted Tuesday during a meeting she hosted in her Miami Gardens district office amid claims by both the 45-year-old Jesse Trice and the university that each was meant to be in charge.
“We’ll determine how we’ll operate the clinic and who does what,” she said. But she made clear her position: “We cannot and will not allow Jessie Trice to be left out.”
At the center of the dispute is the Liberty City Health Clinic which will be housed in a 10,000-square-foot facility being built on Miami-Dade County-owned land at 2520 N.W. 75th St. with $2.5 million from the state.
FIU officials said at the meeting they were informed they would be able to use the center for a teaching program, NeighborhoodHELP, which they said the school developed for its students and the community.
Jessie Trice officials said the county commission two years ago promised them use of the site. “It’s my understanding that Jessie Trice will head the clinic,” said Wilson, who worked with local officials on the project when she was a Florida senator.
Deborah George, Jesse Trice’s administrative chief medical officer, added, “I can’t imagine any reason why Jessie Trice would not be the clinical provider for Liberty City.”
Lillian Rivera, Miami-Dade County administrator for the Florida Department of Health, said the department obtained the land from the county through County Commissioner Jean Monestime, who was absent from the meeting.
Stephen Sauls, FIU’s vice president for Government Relations, began to describe the history of the university’s involvement with the project – including contacts with legislators in Tallahassee – when Rivera interrupted him, saying, “There was no intention to exclude Jessie Trice.” Rivera added that the medical education component was at the heart of reaching out to the university. “I thought that bringing in FIU was a good thing for the community,” she said. “The key is to test this model of training new physicians.”
Wilson said the idea of bringing FIU into the discussion of the future of the Liberty City Health Center was “not a smart decision. I don’t appreciate it.”“Our focus has been to provide additional health care,” Sauls said, via FIU’s NeighborhoodHELP, “a program that is ready to be replicated.”
Wilson asked Joe Greer, FIU’s assistant dean of Academic Affairs, who leads the NeighborhoodHELP program, whether FIU is willing to work with Jessie Trice. Greer responded that FIU works with “over 100 community partners” as part of its initiative on “household-centered care. We work with anybody.”
“To make [NeighborhoodHELP] successful, this has to be tied into a clinic,” Greer added. Wilson said as far as she is concerned, the center belongs to Jessie Trice. “If FIU wants to work with Jessie Trice, fine [but] it has to be Jessie Trice leading.”