People battered by generational poverty, racism, substandard housing, and inadequate healthcare often suffer from poor nutrition and a myriad of physical, mental, and behavioral health problems. Pandemic-related financial strain, lack of childcare, illness, and grief have conspired to make these burdens even greater.
For those who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to pay for health insurance, basic healthcare is a luxury they can’t afford. Too often, routine checkups are skipped and minor ailments go ignored, and by the time a patient does seek medical attention, it may have progressed into a serious concern. Mental health and dental care are two areas where the unmet need is particularly acute.
Hope Clinic, with locations in Ypsilanti and Westland, fills that gap with free community health services, including Washtenaw County’s only free dental clinic. Hope’s goal is to provide wraparound services that address both immediate needs and the underlying issues that bring a person through their doors.Twenty-two full time and eighteen part time staff and more than 1,200 volunteers are trained to gather information about all of their clients’ difficulties and will refer them to services in-house or to one of their 137 partner organizations that can help them build healthy, stable lives.
“One of the struggles our healthcare system has is keeping the whole person in mind,” says executive director Douglas Campbell. He recently met a client in the clinic’s lobby who was waiting for a dental appointment, but shared “that he was feeling depressed because he was so unwell,” says Campbell. “I said we have folks who can help you. Can I set something up for you?
“He said, ‘You actually have that?’ He starts crying. He couldn’t afford his medication, didn’t know where his next meal was coming from for his family. So we got him set up with regular grocery delivery. Got his medication covered. And got him set up with a counselor.”
According to Campbell, oral health consistently tops the list of people’s requests for help across agencies. The dental clinic served 1,356 people last year, providing everything from routine cleanings to root canals. But the gentleman Campbell met in the lobby had to wait weeks before he was able to get an appointment.
Hope also provided mental and behavioral health services to 1,000 people last year, but knows that many more people need help—Campbell says that the need is “overwhelming” and far outstrips the capacity of Hope Clinic’s one full time social worker, one part time psychiatrist, and three volunteer social workers. So the clinic is launching a $5.5 million capital campaign to double the number of patients it can see for oral, mental, and behavioral health services.
The campaign will fund additional staff members, equipment, and examination rooms, and expand Hope’s range of services, including new space for on-site screening and substance abuse treatment through partnerships with Hegira Health Inc and Dawn Farm.
“The clients we serve at Hope are at high risk because they have the lowest income levels in the county without access to care, says Campbell. “They often feel trapped and alone in their struggles, unable to get the help they need.” The new funds will allow them to provide the depth and breadth of care that uninsured people require. “We are working towards fully integrated services, treating the whole person.”