Abstract The Milwaukee Target Cities (MTC) project was the only site within 19 federally funded Target Cities programs to feature a public health nursing model as its sole means of providing comprehensive health-related services to indigent substance abuse clients. We first describe MTC's implementation process, focusing on the public health nursing component, and then present a program evaluation section with selected findings from the ongoing qualitative evaluation. Initially, misunderstandings about the nurses' community-based, family-centered strategy of assuring access to health care through cross-system service linkage dogged the nurses' efforts to explain their roles and mission to federal funders, project management, coworkers. and treatment providers. In the end, after federal funding ended, public health nursing left an enduring legacy of partnerships in the county substance abuse treatment system: education about public health nursing, networking, referral processes, and resources to meet the complex health-related needs of indigent substance abusers. Despite the project's many changes, the nurses (a) became specialists in substance abuse, gaining expertise and recognition in a new community, particularly with isolated subpopulations; (b) assured substance abuse clients and their families access to health-related resources through core public health nursing skills; and (c) educated project staff, administrators, providers, and clients about public health nursing.