Community leaders joining together do make long-term differences, as evidenced by the health care support that Mercy Hospital St. Louis is applying to a region of North St. Louis County.
Mercy opened a new Mercy Clinic Primary Care and Women's Health facility in Ferguson at 9180 W. Florissant Ave., which is part of the previously announced Health+Homes WestFlo District initiative. Located along the West Florissant Road corridor in southeast Ferguson, the district is being reshaped into an area that serves as a hub where people work, live and play. Clearly, having sound medical service and health care access is vital to such well-rounded projects.
“During 2019, we announced the Health+Homes STL plans for the WestFlo District,” says Clayton resident Donn Sorensen, Mercy executive vice president, and CEO/board chairman of Health+Homes. “This year, Mercy fully responded to the call to promote health and wellness for Ferguson residents.”
He adds, "Mercy has been dedicated to matching our health ministry with the needs and demands of the communities we serve. We have always been an integral part of developing neighborhoods and communities by helping those most vulnerable among us."
The new facility serves adult, pediatric and women's health patients in its 5,500-square-foot space. The space also offers a nutrition center with an on-site nutritionist one day a week to assist community members with nutrition in disease management, as well as nutrition for wellness. The care team at the clinic includes a licensed clinical social worker to ensure timely care in coordination with behavioral health providers, too. Parenting classes, smoking cessation and grief counseling services also are offered.
To aid residents who can't make it to the facility, Mercy employs community health workers who go door-to-door to identify health problems and provide resources.
The WestFlo District is the first project by Health+Homes, a Missouri-based nonprofit with the mission is to provide access to healthy lifestyles and neighborhoods and affect change for those who seek to strengthen their community through the inclusion of all persons.
Donn, founder of the nonprofit, says a health care hub will be a central part of every Health+Homes project.
"It's about the common good of communities, as Aristotle pointed out in 300 BC. Everyone deserves and needs access to food, medical care, clothing and education -- not necessarily free -- but simply access. Justice breaks down when we as humanity don't have those types of access," asserts Donn.
During 2016, Donn says the agonizing times of St. Louis' public and nationally noticed unrest hit him hard personally. "I realized it was a matter of leadership, and that someone needed to solve the issues. I remember telling myself I had to figure it out. So I pulled other leaders together, because poverty can't be solved in one blanketed manner," he recalls. "You have to break such issues down into individual ones and solve each problem in its own way."
Working with community leaders, stakeholders and residents, Mercy launched a Community Advisory Council about five years ago to inform plans for space within the clinic and serve as a voice for the Ferguson community. Donn says they since identified what was wrong, what activities would help and what needed to be built.
Other business partners include Musick Construction Company, Pitt Development Group, World Wide Technology Inc., Emerson and McCarthy.
Working together, Donn says 2022 is about getting federal grants to implement infrastructure in the district. "The area needs actual curbs, gutters, walkways, lamp posts and covered places to wait for buses," he confirms. "We're going to turn this wonderful city into what it needs to be successful."
It helps to have the wherewithal of large organizations involved. Mercy is one of the nation’s most highly integrated, multi-state health care systems, including more than 40 acute care, managed and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, convenient urgent care locations, imaging centers and pharmacies. Mercy has 900 physician practices and outpatient facilities, more than 4,000 Mercy Clinic physicians and advanced practitioners and 40,000-plus co-workers serving patients and families across Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Mercy also has clinics, outpatient services and outreach ministries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In addition, Mercy's IT division, Mercy Technology Services, and Mercy Virtual commercially serve providers and patients from coast to coast.
But it also takes the passion and support of people like Donn to nail down long-term solutions.
"He who refreshes others gets refreshed himself," suggests Donn.
Any individuals, corporations and foundations wishing to donate funding or personal talents to help Health+Homes reshape communities can visit online at HealthAndHomes.org/Donate.
“As we follow in the steps of the Sisters of Mercy, we understand the importance of hearing from the community to deliver what’s needed most,” says Tesh Jewell, Mercy Clinic Primary Care vice president in St. Louis. “We want to know how best Mercy can be a good neighbor.”