Bakari Burns-The Orlando Times
BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Photo Cutline: Bakari Burns with his two daughters and mother, Barbara Burns
ORLANDO - Health Care for the Homeless Inc. has a rich history of giving back and supporting those in need in the Central Florida community. At the helm is its current President and CEO Bakari Burns, a respected Jones High School and FAMU Alumni.
HCCH provides health services for anyone who is homeless and resides in Orange, Osceola, and Seminole Counties. As well as residents of Orange County who have a home but are below the poverty line, uninsured or covered by Medicaid, Medicare, and some private insurances.
Their programs include primary and preventive medical care, oral health services, behavioral health and substance abuse counseling, vision services, an on-site pharmacy, a residential TB shelter, mobile health services, rapid HIV testing, and street outreach.
With the mission "to provide quality health care services that improve the lives of the homeless and medically indigent people of our community," HCCH was founded in 1993 by Dr. Rick Baxley. The volunteer physician saw the need to provide quality health care services to the homeless population in Orlando, Florida.
It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of community members and Health Center users. They receive government funding from the federal, state, and local levels as well as through private financial and in-kind support.
It initially shared a space at the Coalition for the Homeless but in 1995, they received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to provide primary health care services to the homeless residents of Orange, Osceola, and Seminole Counties in Central Florida. After more funding, in 2006, they opened Orange Blossom Family Health, which is operated by the HCCH, and is located at 232 North Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL.
HCCH is one of the providers of health care services for the homeless population in the tri-county area and takes a multi- disciplinary approach to delivering quality health care services. After years of construction phases and expansions, 2013 brought their first satellite site at the Community Food and Outreach Center located on Michigan St. The Osceola County location at Community Hope Center began seeing patients in March of 2014 and their Sanford location at Harvest Time International began seeing patients in July of 2014.
Following the same mission, Bakari Burns has served as the President and CEO of HCCH, Inc., doing business as Orange Blossom Family Health, since 2003.
He had experience working as the Chief Operating Officer, Finance Director at Bond Community Health Center (BCHC) for seven years before earning his current position.
Born in San Diego, California to a military family, he was raised in Orlando, Florida. The second child of William Burns and Barbara Paige Burns, he has an older sister, Busara Burns-Pitts and a younger brother, Bitar Burns.
When he was around the age of 3 his parents divorced, and Barbara raised Bakari as a single parent, with the much-needed assistance of his grandmother, Arizona Paige, and his older sister.
He graduated from Jones High School in 1992, the same school in which his mother taught mathematics for 27 years and where the academic center is named in her honor. He received a Walt Disney World scholarship, which opened the door for his educational opportunities. He earned his Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Health Care Management in 1997 and his Master of Public Health (MPH), Health Policy and Management in 2001 from FAMU. In 2009 he received his Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) at Rollins College - Crummer Graduate School of Business after receiving another scholarship.
“I saw me accepting those scholarships as signing a promissory note to my community saying that I would gain knowledge and then come back and invest my skills and talents in improving the community that gave to me” he said. “I wanted to return and say thank-you by coming back and serving the community and hopefully making our community a better and healthier place.”
During his internship at BCHC he realized that there were many hard-working people in the community who did not have insurance or access to quality health care services and he felt that he needed to help, which lead him to HCCH.
Although exceptionally humble, both Burns and the center, under Burns’ direction, have received various awards for their contributions to the community. He thanks his dedicated staff for earning these achievements.
“He has a vision not just for the patients that we serve but for his community,” said Dr. Chianta Lindsey, Chief Operating Officer at HCCH. “When you have an individual such as himself leading the way to ensure that people are treated with dignity and respect, he inspires you to want to share in that mission.”
For generations his family has attended Mt. Pleasant M.B. Church and in addition to years of active service he has been a member of the Trustee Board for two years.
“I have always seen a very determined young man, a man who has always been committed to whatever he finds himself involved with. From the ministry, his commitment to his church, to his education goals,” said Mr. Walter Hawkins, Chairman of the Trustee Ministry. “He is making a difference in his community.”
As for the challenges he has faced, he credits them to his actions and thought process and notes Proverbs 23:7 as a source of guidance. Additionally, he often encountered the challenge of having to prove himself capable because he earned his position at the age of 29.
“Find out what your passion is and pursue your passion,” he advises young ones. “Hang in there and don’t give up and continue to foster positive thoughts.”
He is inspired by the great opportunities allotted him in life, including his mother who was significant in his life by providing both support and guidance. He has also been blessed with two beautiful daughters, Addison Marie Burns, 10, and Adira Monet Burns, 4. He refers to them as his refuge and he says they provide him with the escape he needs to just be daddy.
As for the future of HCCH, they will be breaking ground on a new location in June. Located in the Ivy Lane community, it will be a comprehensive health care facility and more announcements will be coming soon.