Christ Community Health Services began in 1995 with a mission to provide quality health care to the underserved of Memphis. Today, it does that through health centers in six distinct communities, which are health care deserts that lack many services.
“We go to where the need is the greatest,” said CEO Shantelle Leatherwood. “We heal people in deserted places. That’s what we do. Our doors are open to anyone, but of course, our intention is to provide services to those within those health care deserts.”
Christ Community Health Services saw 59,641 patients in 2017 and delivered 994 babies. Its providers also saw 1,600 homeless patients. Christ Community Health Services’ patient population is 63 percent female and comes from every ZIP code in Shelby County. Of the total patients, 40 percent are uninsured, 38 percent are on Medicaid and 8 percent are on Medicare. The average patient is between ages 18 and 64. Seventy-four percent are African-Americans.
Services offered include adult and pediatric primary care, behavioral health, women’s health, general dentistry, HIV care and treatment, pharmacy, spiritual care, and health screenings and immunizations for refugees resettled in Memphis. Operation Outreach is the mobile clinic that serves the homeless population.
“We’re passionate about providing health care to the underserved, poor, homeless, the least of these, addressing the needs of women – especially in low-income communities because they face so many social stressors,” Leatherwood said, pointing to the parable of the Good Samaritan who was despised by the Jews but who took time to tend to the needs of a Jew left for dead on the side of the road. “The Samaritan placed him on his own transportation, took him to the inn, asked the innkeeper to care for him and he would pay for his expenses. For us, the encouragement is to be the Good Samaritan for the patients we serve.”
Long-term, Leatherwood wants to see more partnerships and collaborations with social service entities that can help provide wraparound services to patients. “It’s hard to address someone with diabetes if they don’t have a home or running water, or to help a child who is asthmatic because of mold in the home,” she said. “We’re positioning to be able to provide more services for those social issues within our walls. It’s those things that impact their lives and health.”
Christ Community Health Services has exciting growth on the horizon. The Broad Avenue location is undergoing a renovation that when complete later this summer will include the relocated women’s center. The doubled space will include additional exam rooms for all patients, as well as the opportunity for continued growth of women’s services. Beyond that work, plans call for replacement of the original location on Third Street, with a possible reopening in time for the organization’s 25th anniversary in a couple of years.
Christ Community Health Services welcomes financial contributions and community partners. Of the organization’s budget, about $4 million covers uncompensated care for the uninsured. Individuals can make one-time or monthly donations and find other ways to help the cause by visiting christcommunityhealth.org.
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