Volunteers from academic, government, and religious institutions are joining together to launch a new community health and wellness clinic at a church in the Oakhaven community in South Memphis.
The Healing Center Wellness & Stress Clinic of Memphis will be located on the campus of The Healing Center Baptist Church, 3885 Tchulahoma Road, the church founded in 1991 by Bishop William Young, and his wife, Pastor Dianne Young. The clinic stems from a unique partnership that includes the church and volunteer support from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, the University of Memphis, Rhodes College, Memphis City Government, Memphis Area Legal Services, and the West Cancer Center.
The clinic will offer free primary care, medication management, substance abuse and mental health counseling, as well as resources to assist with housing, employment, stress management, and legal issues. A ribbon cutting is set for March 12 at 10 a.m. to introduce the clinic to community leaders, church members, and Oakhaven residents.
David M. Stern, vice chancellor for Health Affairs for Statewide Initiatives at UTHSC, said the clinic represents an innovative model for bringing services to improve the lives of the underserved in Memphis by positioning them in a trusted place in a particular community outside of the usual health care setting.
“The goal was to see if this clinic could be used to address physical health, mental health, substance abuse disorder, and the social determinants of health, and it would be held right in the church, so that we could reach people we ordinarily couldn’t reach,” Dr. Stern said. “It’s really going out into the community and meeting the needs of the community where you can reach them.”
He said idea was born with the Youngs, who had a vision for a clinic at their church. Long active in community health, with a primary focus on mental health issues, they launched and continue to lead the successful Suicide in the Black Church Conference, which has gained national attention. When Dr. Stern was introduced to them and learned of their vision, he began putting together the volunteer coalition for the clinic.
Dr. Stern will serve as executive director of the clinic. Peter Hossler, PhD, an assistant professor of Urban and Community Health at Rhodes College, will be the program director.
The clinic will be in a separate building on the church campus, and will include three exam rooms and multiple rooms for classes and group meetings. Initially, it will be open one Monday a month from 5 to 8 p.m., expanding to once a week in six months to a year.
UTHSC is providing furniture, exam equipment, and resources for the building, as well as medical, physician assistant, nursing, and pharmacy students and faculty volunteers. The city government is providing funds to help renovate the building. The organizers are working with volunteers from the social work program at the U of M and Memphis Area Legal Services. Rhodes College student volunteers will offer nutrition and fitness support. West Cancer Center is bringing its mobile mammography unit to the opening to provide screenings from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The clinic will operate according the model of all academic medical centers, Dr. Stern said, with trainees in the various professions overseen by faculty members or professionals. “We think this is a model that’s going to give good care,” he said
Dr. Hossler said the Healing Center Wellness & Stress Clinic is designed to offer a holistic approach to caring for the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of residents in an underserved area in order to improve the quality of life across the community. “I think health equality has impacts that go well beyond how you feel on any given day,” he said.