UHealth Jackson Urgent Care Centers First in Miami-Dade to Achieve Autism-Friendly Designation Through Partnership with UM-NSU CARD

Special Connection Between Nurse and Autistic Boy Inspired Designation

Miami, FL – UHealth Jackson Urgent Care centers partnered with University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD) to achieve an autism-friendly designation, becoming the first network of urgent care centers in Miami-Dade County to receive this distinction.

“We understand how overwhelming it can be for patients with autism and related disabilities to seek care in an unfamiliar medical environment,” said Carlos A. Migoya, president and CEO of Jackson Health System. “Our goal is to always be inclusive and welcoming to everyone – and be a resource to the autism community. We are so proud of the dedication and leadership our staff has demonstrated to make sure this population receives top quality care in a safe and comfortable environment.”

The autism-friendly designation means that the staff at all five UHealth Jackson Urgent Care locations – Country Walk, Cutler Bay, Doral, North Dade, and Keystone Point – have been specially-trained to treat patients with autism and related disabilities. Additionally, all of the centers now have a designated sensory-friendly exam room to give this patient population the opportunity to experience health care in a safe, comfortable, and controlled environment. The rooms feature soft music, dimmed lights, and a bean-bag chair.

“UM-NSU CARD is proud to partner with UHealth Jackson Urgent Care centers in creating an autism-friendly experience for patients with autism and related disabilities and their loved ones,” said Dr. Michael Alessandri, executive director of UM-NSU CARD. “COVID-19 is reminding us each and every day that the often marginalized community of people with developmental disabilities is uniquely vulnerable during a pandemic. As such, it is even more critical for healthcare facilities to have adequately trained staff, appropriate and effective accommodations in place, and sensory-friendly spaces and protocols that ultimately offer a more pleasant and successful healthcare visit.”

The UHealth Jackson Urgent Care staff became inspired to seek this designation after learning of the special connection between 14-year-old Jason Vargas, who is non-verbal with severe autism, and nurse Osnardo “Ozzie” Drago.

In 2017, Jason first met Ozzie at the UHealth Jackson Urgent Care in Country Walk. His parents had visited countless of urgent care centers and had been unsuccessful at finding someone with the special touch to treat their child.

Although Jason is unable to speak, Jason’s father says Ozzie and his son communicate so well. Ozzie was the first medical professional that Jason allowed to check his ears and take his vitals.

“The treatment towards our son has changed his life and possibly even has saved it,” said Anthony Vargas, Jason’s father. “The trust my son built with the staff led to him to allow other clinicians to take his vitals and draw blood, which for over 10 years they would sedate him to complete this.”

Vargas was so touched to learn that the special friendship between his son and Ozzie were the source of inspiration for this designation.

“Unless you live with the struggles that many parents like us face on a daily basis, you cannot understand how many times you feel embarrassed or unwelcome in facilities, or simply misunderstood,” said Vargas. “No one knows what a huge impact the care received has bettered all our lives, health, and well-being. Now, others with autism can have somewhere to go in which they will be treated with the understanding, compassion, and dignity every special patient deserves.”

Autistic patients who visit UHealth Jackson Urgent Care will be given a sensory kit to help ease the stress of their visit. Patients will be able to take home the kits, which include a puzzle piece stress reliever, fidget spinner, and gel bead pad.

To help prepare autistic patients for an upcoming visit to our urgent care centers and ease any anxiety, we have designed a booklet, “My Visit To UHealth Jackson Urgent Care,” that is available on our website and shows photos of what they can expect.

UM-NSU CARD’s goal is to build a more welcoming community for citizens of all abilities by partnering with community entities interested in making a difference in the lives of people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or related disabilities. This is all done at no cost to you. “Autism Friendly” is providing a welcoming, compassionate, and nonjudgmental environment for individuals with ASD and related disabilities. For more information, you can visit umcard.org.

For more information on UHealth Jackson Urgent Care Centers, visit jacksonurgentcare.com.

# # #

Jackson Health System
1611 N.W. 12th Avenue Miami, FL 33136

Jackson Health System Miracles made daily logo

Media Contact

Lidia Amoretti

Media Relations Outreach

The Media Relations & Outreach team works with local, national and international print and broadcast media and other external audiences to showcase Jackson’s physicians, staff, research and medical services. The team also works reactively, responding to media inquiries on a variety of medical-related issues.

For more information, contact our media team:
Media Relations & Outreach
Alamo Building, 2nd Floor
1611 N.W. 12th Avenue
Miami, FL 33136
305-585-7200 (fax)