The Los Angeles Mission Community Clinic (LAMCC) was started in 1996 as a department of the Los Angeles Mission (LAM), a faith-based nonprofit agency serving the homeless population of Skid Row for over fifty years. While the main focus of LAM was providing social services such as housing, food, clothing, rehabilitation, and vocational services, they were concerned by the unmet medical needs that they witnessed on a daily basis while they served the community. The LAMCC was started in response to those needs.
The clinic grew slowly over the first few years, starting with mainly volunteers and then adding staff positions little by little. By 2003—when the clinic first applied for CCHF funding—our annual budget was about $595,000, made up completely of private foundation grants and individual donor contributions. With this budget, a dedicated ten-member staff, and less than 4,000 square feet of space, we were able to offer full and individual time, comprehensive, adult primary-care services to 2,100 patients (4,000 visits) per year, as well as part-time dental and part-time chiropractic care.
Unfortunately, despite modest growth, LAMCC continued to see tremendous unmet needs in the Skid Row homeless community. Most troublesome to us was the fact that nearly every day we turned away more patients than we were able to serve. We yearned to make more of an impact on our community, and knew that we would need to grow significantly if we were to really make a difference in access to care. We would need more providers and nurses. We would need to expand hours to include evenings and Saturdays. Dental services needed to be increased from part-time to full-time to meet the huge need for dental care. We would need to begin serving children, a subpopulation whose numbers were sadly on the rise in Skid Row.
To accomplish all of this growth that we envisioned, of course we would need to do a lot of fundraising. But more importantly, we would need to find funding sources that would be sustainable year after year, so that our patients would be able to depend on us over the long term. We began to contemplate the idea of pursuing government funding, and particularly the Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) program. As we did so, we immediately faced numerous challenges: (1) We know very little about the program and had received much conflicting information about whether or not a small faith-based clinic such as ours could qualify; (2) Our parent organization had a long history of receiving all of its funding from the private sector, and was open to the idea of the clinic pursuing government funding only if we split off and became a separate 501(c)3 entity; (3) Our very small administrative staff was already overburdened and had limited time to spend researching governance and operation requirements, conducting a readiness assessment, and bringing the clinic into compliance; (4) We had very limited ability to track the types of clinic data that we knew a federally-funded clinic would need to report on, due to our antiquated computers and “homemade” patient database, and we lacked the funding to purchase and implement a new system; and (5) We had no grant-writing staff to write the 200-page-long proposal, and we knew our medical director and administrative director could not do it alone and still conduct their duties of running the clinic. To say that the challenges seemed insurmountable would be an understatement!
We started asking CCHF director Jerry Stromberg for advice early on in the process. It was a huge encouragement to hear his stories of other faith-based clinics that became FQHCs and maintained a Christian identity. Hearing about the growth that these clinics underwent and the impact that they were able to make on their communities fueled our desire to move forward on the path.
In 2003 we applied for and received a Compassion Capital Fund sub-award from CCHF. We used the funds for two purposes: (1) to purchase and implement a new practice management system, and (2) to hire a consultant who could conduct an readiness assessment, assist us with achieving compliance, guide us through the process of separation into a separate 501(c)3, and help us write the daunting application.
The months that followed were a whirlwind of meetings, conference calls, late nights on the computer, and most of all watching God do miracles! While the CCHF funding had addressed all of the barriers we had been anticipating, we encountered numerous challenges along the way that we had not foreseen, ranging from mind-boggling logistic issues to fierce local politics. At every turn, we were humbled beyond description as we watched God solve every problem we faced. Ultimately, in the spring of 2004, we submitted our application, and by fall we had received notification that we were awarded FQHC status, along with a $650,000-per year continuing grant to expand access to care to an additional 2,750 patients annually. Hallelujah!
The CCHF funding that we received was obviously a crucial part of our getting to the point of being an FQHC clinic—but CCHF’s role went beyond just the funding. They provided various types of technical assistance that were vital to the process. One example includes the “Strategic Planning Technical Assistance and Coaching” workshop that we (the medical director and administrative director) attended in March 2004. This workshop could not have come at a better time for us. We were just at the threshold of breaking off into a new 501(c)3, but our new governing board had not been put in place yet. As clinic management, we had to determine the vision for the new entity on our own, yet if asked, we would not be able to define values, vision, and mission statements, let alone try to formulate them. At the workshop we learned just what we needed to know about those important concepts, as well as SWOT analysis, goal setting, and action plans. We eagerly returned to the clinic and implemented essentially everything we had heard about. We were able to involve our entire clinic staff in the process, and in the end, we had a finished product to present to both our parent agency board and our new clinic board. This set the tone for the brand new phase that the clinic was entering into.
Networking has been another benefit of our experience with CCHF that has contributed significantly to our growth over the past few years. We have had numerous occasions where we needed advice and called clinic administrators that we met at CCHF conferences. We have also recruited key clinic staff members at CCHF workshops.
Today LAMCC is a separate nonprofit entity with its own 50l(c)3 status. Our independent governing board is able to focus its attention on achieving the mission and vision of the clinic and maintaining compliance with Federally Qualified Health Center requirements. And although we are now separate, our parent organization continues to give us financial support, and our two boards and management teams work very closely together in order to coordinate services for the population we both serve.
Our annual budget has increased to over $3.7 million and is growing continually. The FQHC funding of $650,000 per year has served as leverage and led to significant increases in private grant funding. And the augmented Medicaid reimbursement rate that is given to clinics has greatly increased our patient-generated revenues.
We now have a staff of 47, plus more than 50 part-time volunteers working in our clinic space of over 8,000 square feet. Together, they are able to provide nearly 20,000 annual visits to the Skid Row community. The clinic offers full-time medical, full-time dental, and full-time social work services. Chiropractic care, optometry services, and psychiatry services are offered on-site through volunteer professionals. Dietitian and clinical case management staff, as well as masters-level social workers, are now integrated into our clinical team. Pediatric services are available full-time, including well-child care and immunizations.
Despite this amazingly rapid growth, access to health care in Skid Row continues to be inadequate, and the clinic still sees the need for growth in many different areas. Our building is bursting at the seams, forcing us to take creative approaches, such as providing many of our visits off-site at shelters and drop-ins. Over the past two years, we’ve found this “country doctor” approach not only alleviates our space constraints, but also brings health care to many service-resistant homeless individuals who would otherwise go without care.
Over the past ten years, LAMCC has experienced significant growth and has increased its ability to serve the medically needy in the Skid ROW (and greater) area of Los Angeles. We are grateful to God for this growth and for the partnership of CCHF.
by Lisa Levsen Abdishoo, MD, Medical Director, Los Angeles Mission Community Clinic, Los Angeles, CA
My husband David and I are both internal medicine/pediatrics physicians, and we work together at Beacon Christian Community Health Center, a ministry we helped launch in the pan of New York City called Staten Island. Beacon is the first faith-based, state-sanctioned health center in New York City and the entire state of New York. David has been the chief executive officer/medical director for Beacon since its inception in 2004. I joined Beacon as a staff physician in December 2006, after completing my residency at Staten Island University Hospital. I also assist in Beacon’s operations and administration.
David grew up in New York City and has had many experiences with the city’s poor. But it wasn’t until he started medical school in one of the poorest parts of Brooklyn, and subsequently trained at that medical school’s public city hospital, that it became clear to him that God was calling him to use his medical training to serve the underserved. I always knew I wanted to work in underserved areas, but I had always thought that I would go overseas. It wasn't until I moved to New York City to attend medical school that I began to consider working state-side in medically underserved areas. I felt God’s calling for me to work in the city while completing my Master’s in Public Health, which has been invaluable for my work at Beacon.
CCHF was critical to the start-up process of Beacon. We received much technical assistance, as well as start-up funding, through CCHF’s Compassion Capital Program Collaborative with the Jericho Road Foundation (JRF). CCHF was also a constant prayer partner with us as we tackled the thorny political issues that surrounded starting a faith-based health center in New York. To this date, CCHF staff, board, and organizational members continue to be our prayer partners and a source of support for us as a newly established health center. Although Beacon is young, its dynamic growth and current achievements are a testimony to the grace and power of God, manifested in large part by the support and prayers we have received from CCHF, JRF, and now Project MedSend.
MedSend is a Christian organization that assumes the repayment of educational loans for qualified applicants that serve as Christian medial missionaries to the underserved. Through CCHF’s partnership with MedSend as their domestic missionary agency, providers like us are made aware of MedSend funding, and qualified domestic Christian health care ministries are designated as approved work sites. Because of Beacon’s organizational membership in CCHF, David and I were both eligible to apply for MedSend's support.
Both David and I had incurred educational loan debt while attending medical school, and our debt was a barrier for us to continue in medical ministry. When Beacon first began, our family had a reasonable income stream because I was still in residency. But once my residency was completed, we were not sure whether Beacon would be able to financially employ both of us. The main concern was whether I would be able to work with Beacon because my educational debts are tremendous. I’m sure you can imagine the great financial strain that we were feeling—wanting to continue in our work at Beacon and also looking at the reality of our debt that threatened our abilities to continue in our ministry. The fact that we are a young couple trying to raise two young girls in New York City, with its high cost of living and external influences, only added to the stress.
Among MedSend’s requirements, they wanted to see recipients working in a health-care ministry that focuses on providing medical care along with sharing the gospel message of Jesus Christ. At Beacon, our goal is to share the message of Christ through both word and deed, while providing medical care to a community that has had little access to healthcare services. Our goals as a health center and as providers fit with MedSend's Criteria, so we applied for funding.
To our amazement, we soon found out that we were to be MedSend recipients! Receiving MedSend support is such a confirmation to us that God has called us to work at Beacon. Without MedSend’s funding for us, we know we would not be working at Beacon today because we would have been forced to take other work, in order to help meet the financial burdens of our loan debt. Moreover, Beacon’s early development would have been seriously hampered.
MedSend is a provision from God at this time in our ministry’s history, and knowing we are busing supported by MedSend has been sorely needed for us. We believe we will look back at this moment and see how critical this provision was for us, both as physicians caring for our patients at Beacon and for us as a family. We praise God for what he has done and will continue to do here at Beacon Christian Community Health Center.
by Janet Kim, MD, MPH, MA, Beacon Christian Community Health Center, Staten Island, NY
It was not an altruistic sense of selfless service, but an anger stirred by injustice, that God used to motivate a Christian woman with no experience in administration to call area health-care providers and community leaders to action. County Health Bureau and Wellness borne of the frustrations of an emergency-room nurse fed up with the increasing numbers of primary-care patients buried beneath the overwhelming burden of the acutely ill and injured of a level one trauma center, who waited six to eight hours to be seen because they had nowhere else to go. These were patients who did not qualify for state or federal programs, who had no access to insurance through their place of employment, and who lacked the financial resources to access care independently.
The first organizational meeting took place in July 2002, and the clinic opened its doors in December of that same year. Since a true source of care to the poor and uninsured was desired, and not just a Band-aid solution, a three-phase implementation plan was developed. Phase One included the willingness of the clinic to set up and tear down in a "borrowed facility" such as a church basement once a week. Although access to care once a week might address chronic conditions, it would do very little to address acute illness or injury. Consequently, Phase Two, projected for years two through five, introduced a dedicated facility, part-time paid staff, and services offered two to three times weekly. Recognizing the fact that the service area in north central Illinois was rural and spread out over 843-plus square miles, the task force proposed “mobilizing” clinic services in some degree in years five through ten. During that time period, Bureau County Health and Wellness Clinic would need to take its services out to towns and villages in surrounding areas and utilize clinic resources and experience in order to help adjacent counties establish their own services.
The actual demand for services was greater than the initial needs assessment indicated, as area plant closings and factory lay-offs drove the clinic into premature growth. The clinic opened its doors with one foot already squarely in Phase Two. Rather than utilizing a borrowed facility, BCHWC was offered the use of a building in downtown Princeton, Illinois, the seat of the proposed service area. That building allowed the clinic to provide access to care three mornings each week. Staffed by 100% volunteers, BCHWC had 13 physicians who donated their time and services to see patients on a rotating basis.
God is amazing, and as the clinic stayed dedicated to the vision God had provided, God met our every need. That is not to say BCHWC was without humble beginnings. The first facility offered two exam rooms divided by a curtain. The eye chart required patients to perform their eye test in the middle of the waiting room, generally to the quiet applause of other patients and their families. The “formulary” consisted of donated samples in a filing cabinet so small it required the nurses to preview the patients scheduled in order to predict and track down the necessary medications the doctors would need to treat the patients. The laboratory services were limited to CLIA-waived bedside testing performed in the exam rooms. But as our reliance on God increased, so did our faith, and God continued to enlarge our territory.
It was the end of that first year when Bureau County Health and Wellness Clinic was first introduced to Christian Community Health Fellowship. BCHWC was a free clinic in the truest sense. There was no third-party reimbursement or governmental support. As an entity in its infancy, community support was still quite guarded. In order to meet the demands placed on the clinic, BCHWC applied for a grant through Compassion Capitol Campaign. That grant was the beginning of a long and beneficial relationship between BCHWC and CCHF. Not only did they provide the necessary funding to introduce paid staff, but their “Nuts and Bolts of Getting Started” conferences helped to bring up that staff with experience in grant writing, board development, budgeting, staff and volunteer recruitment/retention, as well as the spiritual challenges of providing health care to the poor, the staff and “coaches” at these conferences prepared the well-intentioned but inexperienced staff at BCHWC to serve more successfully.
By the end of 2004, BCHWC was able to move into a building that offered four times the space due to the generosity of Covenant Children and Family Services. As the patient population continued to double each year, the rate of patient visits doubled as well. The new space allowed For three separate exam rooms, which increased the effectiveness of the physicians’ clinics by almost doubling the number of patients seen by each provider. The annual budget had gone from $10,000 to $80,000 without a solid donor basis. That was when BCHWC received a grant from CCHF to hire a development coordinator to help facilitate financial support.
As the clinic grew operationally, it was also necessary to develop the administration and the governing board. A well-matched mentor was introduced to the administrator at BCHWC through CCHF. That relationship served to bring BCHWC administration out of the “begging for crumbs” mentality that can keep free clinics underdeveloped and replaced it with a "look what we can do for you” perspective. The clinic was becoming a viable entity in health care. It was at this point that the area hospitals, encouraged by a Hospital Impact Study showing a reduction in uninsured visits to the local emergency department one year after the introduction of free clinic services, finally agreed to provide limited ancillary testing For BCHWC patients.
Strategic planning seminars and national conferences offered by CCHF continued to build leadership capabilities at Bureau County Health and Wellness Clinic. By utilizing the experiences of others who had walked the same path, mistakes could be avoided and proven solutions could be implemented. Despite the differences in size, budget, geographic location, and even the populations served, clinics providing health care to the poor and underserved all had the same problems. The conferences offered by CCHF brought clinics from all over this country together to share those problems and a variety of solutions.
As BCHWC developed over the years, the benefits that came above and beyond the specific objectives of those conferences changed. At first, the hope of survival was poured into by the clinics who had already survived their first decade. Then there was the encouragement of seeing those that were developmentally where BCHWC had already been. Finally, there was the energy that can be created only by sharing what has been learned with others. Through it all, CCHF provided an environment that bolstered the spirituality of all involved. It offered a constant reminder in the midst of many trials and tribulations to remain loyal to our mission, showing the love of Christ by meeting needs.
Bureau County Health and Wellness Clinic now has over 1,700 patients who rely on us for primary health care. Patient visits this year will top 5,000. True to the vision provided in our initial Implementation Plan, the clinic currently has established one satellite clinic in DePue and just opened another in Mendota on March 1, 2007. A neighboring county utilized BCHW Clinic as the prototype for a free clinic in Ottawa, Illinois. God has done amazing things in this rural Illinois free clinic and has accomplished many of those miracles through the efforts and dedication of the Christian Community Health Fellowship. All glory to God and our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ!
by Heather Tinker, RN, BSN, Executive Director of the Bureau County Health and Wellness Clinic in Princeton, IL
In the spring of 2002, God gave me a Genesis 12:1 type of call to leave my comfortable, though less-than-fulfilling job at a major heath center in Detroit. I finally heeded the call—almost 6 months later—not knowing where I was going, or how. Shortly thereafter, I was invited to a CCHF conference and happily attended with ten other Detroiters in ministry. Little did I know my answer awaited me there. At the May, 2003 Annual CCHF conference I met like-minded
soldiers in God’s army who were in the trenches, affecting lives—at some personal sacrifice but with tremendous reward. They had uncertainties too, but more importantly, they had experience and they gave me pointers that kept me out of some of the ditches they had fallen into. They faced similar condemnation from family members who thought they were making the biggest mistakes of their lives. But because they, like no one else, could see the hand of God on their lives, they kept going.
And so have I. Now, as a Medical Director of a Christ-centered free and low-cost health-care clinic, I have since reunited with my colleague/mentors several times at other CCHF conferences. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I have been re-enlightened as to my call, my purpose and my destiny by the assurance that I alone am NOT left to do his will. I have implemented practical strategies that I learned at my CCHF “refreshings” and my family, my clinic, my community have been blessed because of the contacts I made through CCHF. I met my boss at a conference. Our clinic received a grant through CCHF to hire me, and recently, a warrior with CCHF helped us apply to the government as a Federally Qualified Health Center. I can’t wait to see what God shows me in Chicago, May 31, 2007 at this year’s CCHF Annual Conference. Look for me there; I'll be the one with the biggest smile!
by Lydia Reasonover Best, MD, Medical Director of Covenant Community Care, Inc., Detroit, MI
God has used CCHF from the very beginning to nurture and bless and encourage our work in Buffalo, New York.
Growing up in Belize as a child of Mennonite missionaries, I knew early on that what I wanted to be more than anything else in the world was a doctor and a missionary. Maybe it was seeing the great need in Belize for doctors, or riding with my father as he took people from our remote village to the city hospital when they needed a doctor—be it for a snake bite or a complication from a pregnancy or a machete cut received during a fight. My childhood exposure led me on a long journey, and along the way I began to forget why I had started the journey in the first place. Medical school is not easy. Working long hours, seeing incredible suffering, having role models who were cynical and long ago lost their way—all began to wear away at my heart. I was deeply disappointed at how the poor were treated by the health-care system that I was a part of. I became discouraged with my decision to become a doctor.
Then one day in medical school I was introduced to CCHF when someone gave me a copy of H&D to read. I was immediately encouraged as I read the personal accounts of how other medical students and physicians across the United States were working in sacrificial ways to make a difference in their communities. Those articles and people became a lamppost for me, encouraging me and guiding me and keeping me focused on what I knew God was asking of me. They reminded me of my original call to become a doctor.
In 1997, fresh out of residency, I returned to Buffalo with my wife, Joyce, to do something a little bit radical: start a private family practice dedicated to providing excellent medical care to the poor regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. We obtained a bank loan, renovated space provided to us by our church, and opened our doors. We were young, full of energy, and a little too principled and self-righteous. We were going to save this community. Little did we know that God would use this community to save us.
The first week in practice we had three patients (all from the same family). The first couple of years were a constant struggle to survive financially. It not easy doing private practice in a community where many people are uninsured or have Medicaid or are recent immigrants. At first I worked three other jobs to provide for the family. Then a year and a half after we started the practice, our church split apart after a bitter fight. This was devastating to us because we had moved back to Buffalo because of this wonderful church. In addition, we had just invested lots of money to renovate our office in the church building, and we had bought a home right around the corner. Most of our friends were a part of this church. On top of all that, a personal crisis almost split our marriage.
Suddenly, much of what we had taken for granted was taken away. In the midst of our ministry and all its potential, we were totally broken and totally dependent on God's mercy. In this moment of crisis, God intervened in a way that even now, almost nine years later, Joyce and I are still incredibly thankful for. Our lives have not been the same because we experienced God's incredible mercy.
It was during this time of need that I believe God again used CCHF to encourage and sustain us. Joyce and I decided to begin attending the CCHF conference on a regular basis. Attending the conference, worshiping with such a diverse group, being around other people who were honest about their own struggles and joys in ministry, and hearing some amazing speakers over the years—all were instrumental in helping us sustain our passion for the call in Buffalo, even though our lives in Buffalo were broken. I am convinced that the CCHF “cloud of witnesses” is what got us through those dark times in 1998 and 1999.
Since then, our work in Buffalo has grown in ways we would have never imagined. Now Jericho Road Family Practice has three family doctors and two nurse practitioners who work full-time at two sites and see over 22,000 patients per year. We serve an incredibly diverse community, with patients from over 60 nations. It seems like the world is coming to Buffalo as refugees are resettling here from countries that include Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Bosnia, and Burma, to name a few. We no longer feel alone in this work, as many good people have joined Jericho Road to serve in many different ways. It is exciting to be a part of what is happening now. God has been faithful to us.
In 2002 we started a sister organization called Jericho Road Ministries, which is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. This organization was born out of a desire to be able to obtain more to help us meet the nonmedical needs of the people we see every day in our office. We raise financial support to do mentoring programs for pregnant refugee women, a financial literacy program, and health literacy programs, as well as to provide basic food and clothing to people who come to us with a need.
Through Jericho Road Ministries We were able to obtain two different Compassion Capital Grants, which helped us do several things: start a second site in a different underserved part of Buffalo, help start a free clinic, and upgrade our computer system so that we now have a paperless electronic medical record at both our practice sites. Now Jericho Road Ministries is buying the hundred-year-old 22,000 square-foot building where our main practice site is located and renovating it into a modern facility with mostly volunteer labor and donated monies. This building will house our practice and ministry, a multicultural charismatic church, and a faith-based refugee resettlement program.
I am to God for his faithfulness and mercy to Joyce and me these past ten years. l am also for CCHF, which has personally motivated us, encouraged us, and helped to sustain us. It is my prayer that CCHF will remain a vital, relevant organization for many years to come in order to nurture the dreams of students, encourage and support people across this country who are living out the gospel through providing health care among the poor, and support organizations in communities across this country that are a voice for change and compassion in their communities.
May God bless CCHF and each person who has given and will give to this organization. You have made a difference in my life and in the lives of many people here in Buffalo.
by Myron Glick, MD, Founder and President of Jericho Road Family Practice, Buffalo, NY
Almost two years ago, I made a naive inquiry into an internship with an organization I knew very little about. Thankfully, humankind’s naivety is fraught with God’s sovereign will. I had become a Christian in college and strove to bring my life and ambitions in conformity with cruciform discipleship. My dreams of pursuing training in medicine for status, money, power, and pride were irrevocably abandoned in the baptismal waters. Raised to life was a deep concern for the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed. Like a good American Evangelical—armed only with a bible and a prayer—I was ready to take on the world and boldly go where no human had gone before... to practice medicine among the poor.
That’s when I found CCHF. Whether it was God or Google, I am not sure; all I know is that I stumbled onto this website of a group in Chicago (CCHF) that seemed to embody everything I felt called to pursue. Luckily for me, there was an available intern position. I applied and was accepted. A few short months later, I was in Chicago. Suddenly I found that “where no human had gone before" was in fact a well-worn path.
My short summer with CCHF was deeply formative. I was greeted with the exceedingly generous hospitality of the Wilcoxen Family-White folk that took John Perkins and Tony Campolo seriously. While I had just begun to think about what it would mean to live in solidarity with systematically oppressed peoples, the Wilcoxen family invited me into their home to see what it looked like. They refused to take a dollar in rent. They demanded I eat their food, cooked vegetarian meals to appease my palate and convictions, and would not let me pay 50 cents toward the grocery bill. Lisa Wilcoxen even bought me socks when she noticed mine had holes.
Then there was the committed and passionate family in the CCHF office. Bruce, Marlene, Keesha, and company took me under their wings and deposited into me the wisdom accrued after years of experience administrating health care the poor. They shared with me their first-hand know-how, in addition to the stories of our brothers and sisters across the country struggling to live faithfully in an unjust world. Their wisdom was seasoned with support, and once again I was humbled to find that the wheel I had set out to invent already had well-developed tread. ...And all of this was before my first conference!
All along, God has used CCHF to challenge, humble, and encourage me. Surrounded by “such a great cloud of witnesses,” I find myself sustained by the Spirit and empowered to accomplish the call of God—to the Luke l0:9 initiative. The women and men who have devoted their lives to continuing the healing ministry of Jesus among the poor make real the ideals I uphold. Having stumbled upon CCHF—by God or by Google—I’ve become foolish enough to believe that kingdom has indeed come near.
by Joseph Wolyniak who is in his last year of a Masters of Theological Studies at Duke University (Durham, NC). He plans to work as a community organizer with IAF-affiliate Durham CAN and eventually pursue training in medicine.
Back in 2000 I heard this wonderful story about a great but humble man in the state of Mississippi, doing work in a poor community around racial reconciliation. I wanted to know more and the individual who was sharing the story told me, “Why don't you come to a CCHF conference and you will meet this gentleman and can learn more about his life?” I took that opportunity that year and have been an active participant in the CCHF conferences ever since. I did get to meet Perkins that year, read his book, heard his story and I knew then I needed to become a part of CCHF. Not just coming to the conferences but participating as a speaker, and a technical support consultant.
I have loved the philosophy of CCHF from day one. I am a RN who lives and works in the community I serve. I love the idea of living among those in need so to not only serve those in need but be “with” those in need; not just lip service but life service. I enjoy coming to the conferences for refreshment, renewal, and the opportunity to see great people show the love of God by the work they do and lives they live. I met Juvy, who inspired me with her quiet dignity and commitment to her work. I met Josie, who was a behind-the-scenes person who was a powerhouse of ideas and abilities. I met Marlene, who would jump in a car in a split second to pick you up from the airport or help you find your way when you got lost. I met Jerry, who lived his passion and carried the vision for so long it inspired you just to be in the room with him. I met Keesha, who has inspired me with her writings and great stories of her heart for people. I met doctors, nurses, social workers who love being poured out for the service to the poor and needy. I grew so much in those encounters with the people of CCHF. I am bigger and stronger in my faith walk because of those encounters and my life’s ministry has become clearer and more urgent due to those encounters.
CCHF is an organization that has inspired countless health-care providers, neighbors, clergy, etc. etc. etc. I will always have a wonderful place in my heart for the work of CCHF and will continue to support its vision, attend those yearly conferences, and pray for its continued sustainability and longevity.
Sharon Zinnah, RN, Program Coordinator with Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, MI
Voice of Calvary Ministries (VOCM) was incorporated in 1975 as a Christian community development organization to serve the poor and disenfranchised in Mississippi. In 1981, Voice of Calvary Family Health Center (VOCFI-IC) was established in Jackson to provide quality health care at an affordable price. In 2004, the Voice of Calvary Family Health Center (VOCFHC) began operating as a separate nonprofit organization with its own board and its own 501(c)3 tax-exempt designation. This change has been an integral part of our efforts for the health practice of VOCM to grow towards sustainability.
Christian Community Health Fellowship has been one of our most generous strategic partners. Through CCHF’s involvement with the Compassion Capital Fund, VOCFHC received support through both technical assistance (TA) and sub-awards (SA). In the beginning of 2004, we received a sub-award that allowed us to hire an administrative head of the clinic. In the spring of 2004, we received intensive TA through two consultants to assist in the development of a sustainability plan. After several months of discussion, three critical objectives were adopted in order for VOCFHC to become a financially viable health center over the long haul. Those critical objectives are as follows:
- We need to increase our current patient base (volume) by improving our current operations to maximize the income potential from our patient base.
- We must obtain our 330 Look-Alike status to be able to qualify for cost-based reimbursement for the Medicare and Medicaid patients we serve.
- We must grow our health center to at least three full-time providers to be able to generate the level of stable income from services to become financially sustainable.
CCHF was able to provide an on-site consultant dedicated solely to preparing, submitting, and following through to approval the 330 Look-Alike application. CCHF was able to send a consultant, who spent two weeks per month with VOCFHC to work with our staff to put the processes in place that were needed to apply for this grant. We received an additional sub-award in 2005 for the purpose of hiring a clinical services manager. Both of the sub-awards we received were capacity-building grants for the purpose of pursuing our designation as a 330 Look-Alike health center.
In 2006 we realized our goal when we were approved as a 330 Look-Alike health center, retroactive to November 2005. This milestone would never have been achieved without the help of CCHF.
Last year, 2006, was a year of new challenges and expanding opportunities as a result of Hurricane Katrina. We were able to respond to needs in hurricane-damaged areas along the coast, as well as work with communities removed from the coast to which thousands of evacuees have fled. As part of our outreach effort, we were able to make a mobile medical clinic available to Coastal Family Health Center in Biloxi, Mississippi, shortly after the hurricane through funds received from the Rotary Club and World Vision. Through this partnership, we were able to serve nearly 3,000 victims of the hurricane.
Even though we have had to respond to the crisis needs caused by the hurricane, we have stayed the course in our plans for the sustainability of VOCFHC as outlined by our planning committee and the assistance of CCHF. With the support of CCHF, among others, we have made significant progress on all three goals as presented. Specifically, we have:
- Achieved our goal of attaining a designation as a 330 Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike. This is a major milestone on our way to sustainability.
- Increased our patient base and volume in 2006. We saw a total of 4,459 patients through October of 2006 at our current site, which is an average of 22 patients per day, an increase over our 18 to 20 patients in 2005.
- Begun operating the Convenient Care Clinic (CCC) in partnership with the Jackson Medical Mall, where we saw an additional 1,500 patients. We have added a full-time nurse practitioner who is serving patients at the CCC.
- Served an additional 2,845 patients through our mobile medical clinic in partnership with Coastal Family Health Center in Biloxi.
- Completed a detailed organizational assessment through the Jericho Road Foundation, covering board governance and development, future staffing needs, business operations, and information technology.
- Recruited a clinic administrator on a volunteer basis to increase efficiency in operations as we expand our access to health care.
In addition to these accomplishments, we faced some challenges:
- Reimbursement level set by Medicare is significantly less than anticipated. It has taken longer than expected to work out the details of our Medicare reimbursement, which has impacted our monthly income.
- There is an increased demand for serving uninsured patients. The other two local FQHCs are not taking any new uninsured patients and are referring them to us. We are also getting referrals from other clinics.
- Increased needs brought on by Hurricane Katrina.
Our goals for 2007 and beyond have been set to build on our two main emphases for 2006: (1) Increased access to care for the most vulnerable populations, which has been VOCFHC’s goal since its founding; and (2) Greater response to increased critical needs brought on by Hurricane Katrina. In particular, we have the following three goals:
- To raise funds to provide direct services for uninsured patients.
We are approaching our local hospitals for support for seeing uninsured patients, beginning with our long term partner, Saint Dominic Memorial Hospital. We estimate that it takes a minimum of $250 for a patient to be seen in a hospital emergency room for a non-emergency medical condition. Although uninsured patients are billed this amount, there is only 1% collection rate. VOCFHC can see that same patient for $61. This will shorten the patient’s wait time, provide a tremendous savings for the hospital and the patient, as well as enable VOCFHC to receive compensation for uninsured patients without ability to pay. At VOCFHC, our non-paying patients are approximately 10%.
- To improve our 330 compliance for multiple site operations.
In July 2006, a consultant from Jericho Road Foundation met with the board to perform an organizational assessment to develop a strategic plan for VOCFHC to operate multiple sites as a 330 Look-Alike. This was a valuable, significant, and much appreciated contribution to our ministry. In addition, another volunteer donated his services as clinic administrator to develop business and operational procedures for increasing access to care at multiple sites.
The strategic plan will take up to three years to implement. It will involve board development and training, upgrading our paper-based medical records to electronic records, and acquiring and training additional staff. We believe the implementation of the plan will also result in our reimbursement rate being significantly increased.
As a 330 Look-Alike health center, we are facing increased demands for record-keeping that comply with those standards. In addition, we are now operating two sites and plan to add at least three additional sites by the end of 2007. We are currently using paper records and patient charts. We have a need to go to an electronic patient management system and electronic health records. We have made arrangements with the University of Mississippi Medical Center to be hooked into their electronic records system. This will result in a significant savings compared to having to purchase our own software.
- To establish medical outreach to students in Jackson Public Schools.
It is estimated that Jackson Public Schools has had to absorb a minimum of 2,000 additional students as a result of Hurricane Katrina. VOCFHC is working with JPS to offer medical screenings in eight public schools in order to address the needs of these Katrina victims as well as the general school population.
Voice of Calvary Family Health Center has been a strong presence in our community for 25 years. We have been able to provide consistent, quality health care for many who might not otherwise been able to receive it. Christian Community Health Fellowship has been one of our most faithful supporters.
by Phil Reed, CEO of Voice of Calvary Family Health Center, Jackson, MS