Have you ever had to choose between food or prescription drugs because you could not afford both? All across America more and more people are having to choose between the two but hopefully, situations like that will end if a local effort to see a community health center in Helena-West Helena comes to fruition.

A large crowd showed up Monday evening at the Malco Theater on Cherry Street to hear from the Phillips County Community Health Center Planning Committee and what it would take for such a center to be built in Phillips County.

Anna Huff, co-chair of the planning committee, and Sip Mouden, executive director of Community Health Centers of Arkansas, Inc., encouraged the community to get involved and outlined the first step that the community needed to take.

Three times in the past citizens in Phillips County has tried to get a CHC but were unsuccessful. Now, the Association of Community Health Centers, the Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources Services Administration, Bureau of Primary Health Care have partnered with a local group to end the red tape nightmare. They have agreed to help with all the rules and regulations that need to be met before funds are given to the area.

Huff stated that one of the reasons the area has been turned down was a lack of written documentation from the community. Through a series of surveys and letters from the community, a needs assessment and market analysis can be conducted and submitted with the grant application.

The group does not know when the grant filing opens but they want to be prepared to meet the challenge.
“It’s not about the rich getting rich,” said Mouden.

“We want to capture your heart and your soul. Community Health Centers provide services to everybody. It’s critical to the survival and health of the community,” she said before presenting a video from other Arkansas cities and communities that have benefited from a CHC in their area.

The video included testimony from patients in West Memphis and other communities and showed the type of health care they received from their CHC.

Access to affordable health care is the biggest challenge for rural communities where most patients are uninsured.

The seniors in the communities’ on the video said they did not want to travel to far away cities to get their health care. Mental health care, dental needs and prenatal care also were a concern of those in the video but were finally addressed when a CHC was built in their town.

CHCs are unique because a board or committee governs them. Mouden said that 51 percent of the citizens on the board use the CHC as the home base for health care and are from the city or community they serve.
“The patients have a voice,” she said.

“We need to know and hear from you. All of us need to be a part of this decision,” said Huff as the committee began taking questions from the audience. Many dealt with the sliding scale fee structure and services to veterans and their families.

Most patients pay $10 to $15 a visit based on the sliding scale. Most patients are below the poverty line explained Mouden.

In order for the center to survive, Medicaid and privately insured patients also use the clinic.

Huff said the committee was looking for citizens to serve on various boards and who would commit to the CHC as their health care home.

While the committee is busy with designing a health care service delivery model, obtaining a 501 C 3, applying for grants and developing partnerships with other CHCs, there is something citizens can do to help ensure that Phillips County is not turned down a fourth time for funding.

“Tell Us Your Story” is a way to help the committee with their goals. They are seeking stories from every day citizens in Phillips County about their health care needs and the challenges they face seeking, and receiving health care services.

A detailed story about how far you had to travel or what barriers was met when someone sought healthcare, including dental, preventative, mental or primary health care can be sent to the committee by mail to Ever Jean Ford, Community Planner Consultant, 804 McDonough St. Helena-West Helena, AR 72342.

A petition is also being circulated throughout the community so that citizens can sign their name and address and pledge their support to the committee.

Businesses also can get involved and write a letter to Ford pledging their CHC support.

While the CHC may help those without health insurance it also helps the community as a whole. Huff explained that CHCs boost the local economy by adding jobs, offering discounted drugs and revenue to the area.

If you would like more information about CHCs or the effort of the local committee, call 870-995-8790 or visit the CHCA Web site at www.chc-ar.org.