Health

Bringing hope to Health & Hope Clinic

Good things may indeed come to those who wait.

Even so, the wait for a new free, primary care clinic at Ministry Village on the campus of Pensacola’s Olive Baptist Church left some of the folks involved wondering if the vision would ever come to pass.

After four years, the clinic, operated by the Pensacola Bay Baptist Association as Health & Hope Clinic, is nearly ready to open. A gala preview celebration for the clinic, including a fundraising auction, is planned for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 23 on the church campus. For details, visit www.christmasattheclinic.org.

Health & Hope Clinic organizers aim to meet their patients medical and spiritual needs through a growing network of free clinics.

Health & Hope Clinic organizers aim to meet their patients medical and spiritual needs through a growing network of free clinics.

“It’s our goal, to be someone’s medical home,” Simpson says.

It just one bit of good news Health & Hope has had in recent months. Its clinic in Century has added hours thanks to a new grant and plans are in the works to add another location on Blount Street in early 2014. Health & Hope already has a clinic on Chemstrand Road.

The Ministry Village clinic will have six exam rooms, including two dental exam rooms, which is critical need in our area says Jessica Simpson, executive director of Health & Hope Clinic.

The original plans called for a 7,500 square foot building, but that was revised downward to a size that Health & Hope could afford to maintain, Simpson says.

Simpson says building a connection between places such as Escambia Community Clinics, which see Medicaid and Medicare patients, and free clinics such as Health and Hope and St. Joseph Catholic Church’s clinic or Good Samaritan’s in Santa Rosa County, are key to tackling the issue of how to provide care to the thousands of Escambia County residents who don’t have health insurance.

Art Hillis, patient assistance department coordinator, discusses patient medications with clinic director Jessica Ham.

Art Hillis, patient assistance department coordinator, discusses patient medications with clinic director Jessica Ham.

Estimates are that half the population of Escambia County — some 144,000 people based on U.S. Census Bureau data — is either eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or has nothing in the way of health insurance, Simpson says.

“Of those 144,000 people, 77,000 have no insurance whatsoever,” Simpson says.

Escambia Community Clinics has an active patient database of 88,000 visits a year, which includes people on Medicaid and Medicare and those with no insurance, she says. Each person accounts for two to four visits a year, Simpson says.

“We are a small operation,” Simpson says. “We have an active patient database of 1,500 people and Escambia Community Clinic says if they had to see our patients, it would back them up two months. So that’s just the impact we have on them.”

While the need is evident, it took longer than everyone involved thought to bring the Ministry Village Clinic to life.

Olive Baptist Church pastor the Rev. Ted Traylor says he waited and waited and finally said if he wouldn’t raise this money by Christmas of 2012, he would step away from the project.

“On Christmas Eve of last year, they made a call (during a service) and we raised $600,000 in one night — cash in hand” to start building the clinic, Traylor says.

Which goes to show, he says, that everything comes to pass in its own time.

Cameron Bowen, pharmacy volunteer, counts medications in the pharmacy, which offers free medications to patients.

Cameron Bowen, pharmacy volunteer, counts medications in the pharmacy, which offers free medications to patients.

The clinic fits into Ministry Village’s overall concept of service, Traylor says. The Village includes a facility to help women who were coming out of prison and an adoption agency.

The clinic, he says, fits a Biblical tenet, can serve as a place for a “vast army of Baby Boomers who are retiring daily and need a place to volunteer, and it’s just a huge need in our community with the poverty issues we have.”

“As we prayed through it, it seemed the right thing to do.”

This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise.