By Linda Olson Ferguson
Our picture of the poor and underserved in America has become pixelated when it comes to access to health care. There is no clearly defined profile of those with no or limited access to affordable healthcare. But how can those who can’t afford it find quality health care that is provided with compassion and embraces the patient’s dignity?
Despite being around for 32 years, Inner City Health Center is still relatively unknown. We are a “safety net” clinic that seeks to answer “the call”—we seek to both address medical needs need and love the patient and his/her family as Christ called us. Outside the clinic a statue of the Good Samaritan, physically representing ICHC’s calling:
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:33-37
Political arguments are immaterial here. We are called to show mercy to those who are hurting. Are these people of all races, speaking many languages, US citizens or not? Yes—and more. Everyone can suffer, including those we stereotypically affluent: Anglo-American citizens who are English speaking, employed and under-employed are hurting in 2016.
Take this woman’s story as an example: She was in her late 50’s, had a graduate degree and an impressive resume. She had worked for one entity that went out of business, and was then laid off from another one because of their inability to pay her. Undaunted, she dusted herself off and started her own consulting business. She had enough business to pay her bills and secure a health insurance policy. In order, however, to keep the monthly premiums affordable, her deductible was “higher than the national debt.” She was rarely sick, so she just pushed through symptoms that made her feel bad much of the time. But, one day her body called her to accountability. After throwing up a copious amount of blood, her husband insisted she go to the ER. Six+ days in ICU, IV’s and blood draws, a blood transfusion and multiple tests revealed a serious illness. Suddenly, within a week, all her savings were gone. That woman is this writer.
So, I shall now write in the first person. While I don’t receive my medical care from ICHC, if I’d had known about ICHC when I was first feeling so bad, I would have sought out medical care before my health and my finances circled the drain.
I’m now personally blessed to serve an organization that lives out who Jesus is today. Inner City Health Center serves people from all along the Front Range; we are not city or county restricted. We offer prenatal care, pediatrics, services specific to men’s and women’s health needs, seniors’ health care and medical care for Veterans as an approved provider through the Choice Act. On the dental side we provide all services except orthodontics and implants. We have an extensive network of providers outside the clinic who provide care we cannot provide in the clinic setting. But – we have many volunteers who offer specialized care including Cardiology, OB/GYN, Chiropractic, Orthopedics, Physical Therapy, Massage Therapy etc. We embrace uninsured patients (who pay on a slide scale), and those with Medicaid, Medicare or CHP+. Those patients often cannot find a provider in the private sector who will accept those plans. We have an onsite enrollment specialist who helps our patients enroll in Medicaid et al, and navigate the twists and turns of the PEAK program. We are a “presumptive eligibility” site; that means that pregnant moms or parents with kids can be covered the very day they come in and enroll if they quality. That means, they can see one of our providers right away. We have patient navigators on the medical and dental sides of the clinic. We help each patient know what he or she needs and structures things so they can afford it. We are determined to get our patients healthy and keep them that way!
Our counseling program provides immediate interventions and long term treatment for children, families, and adults.
Obviously, neither patient sliding scale payments nor Medicaid/Medicare/CHP+/VA reimbursements can ever cover the cost of services provided. As a 501c3 with a Christian mission we rely on and are grateful for the support of individual donors, corporate donors, church support and grants. Even in 2016 with the Affordable Care Act, everyone knows someone who needs our services. I’ve seen the hurting and underserved in the “inner city” (whatever that means), and in what we think are more affluent areas of the Denver metro area: Littleton, Centennial, Parker, Arvada, Golden etc. I get a return blessing each time I meet someone in the community (usually at a church) who timidly tells me their story, usually with tears in their eyes. I tell them how to access the care they need, and when they do come in, I will get a call in my office that “so and so” is in the clinic and that “you told them all about Inner City Health”. I get a lot of hugs – which are embedded with God’s healing power as well.
We love to give tours, and I love to talk with individuals and groups – as well as speak to church gatherings and service clubs. Call me or email me: Linda Olson, Development Manager – 720-833-5087 or LindaO@innercityhealth.org.