Monday, 08 April 2013 10:14

Medical Outreach Ministries: Meeting the Physical and Spiritual Needs of the Medically Under Served

Written by  Rachel Fisher
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Health care has become a much debated issue in our country, especially over the past five years. And while there are many different voices and programs offering their best efforts to help curb this growing issue, Medical Outreach Ministries in Montgomery is working to help those affected by the poverty that keeps them from getting the medical assistance they need right here in the River Region.

 

Since beginning in 1993 with Dr. Thomas Goodman of Montgomery and volunteers from Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church providing health care at Bell Street Church, Medical Outreach Ministries has been committed to bringing “healing hope for the uninsured.”

 

While the poorest of the poor may be eligible for Medicaid or other public assistance, there are many uninsured persons in our community who fall through the cracks of the healthcare system, explains Executive Director Nancy Hogan.

 

“Currently, there are 42,000 people in our patient population,” says M.O.M. President of the Board, Chris Anderson. “These are individuals in Montgomery, Autauga, and Elmore counties between the ages of 19 and 64 without health insurance and with income up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.”

 

For these individuals, their only access to a physician for even the most common illnesses is often through the local emergency rooms. Through financial and volunteer contributions, Medical Outreach Ministries is able to improve access to medical care for these needy members of our community at no cost to their patients.

 

“People may hear this number of people, 42,000, and think, “Well, Obamacare is going to take care of all those people.” Chris explains that what most people do not realize is that Medicaid is going up to cover only 138 percent of the federal poverty level.  This still leaves a significant gap of individuals without access to affordable healthcare.  “We see patients up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level,” says Executive Director Nancy Hogan. “This means these patients are making around 20,000 a year in annual income.”

For this reason, Nancy, Chris and the several volunteers and doctors who serve at M.O.M. believe there will always be a reason for this ministry to exist.  “There will never not be people to serve,” says Chris.  “We will need Medical Outreach until Jesus comes back.”

 

Last year, M.O.M. provided medical care for more than 6,000 patients with the consistent support of nearly 70 on-site volunteers, including RNs, pharmaceutical workers, clerical volunteers, and ten doctors, who volunteer their services each week to care for the patients. M.O.M. runs off of five paid staff and a plethora of volunteers. Harold Faulkner, who has been volunteering at M.O.M. for many years says he loves volunteering because he sees this ministry making a real difference in the lives of many people. 

 

 “What people get here is a medical home,” says Nancy. “We treat them just like we would treat anyone else. When they come to Medical Outreach, they receive quality care.”

 

When a patient comes to M.O.M., Nancy explains they are required to go through a financial screening to become a patient. This screening not only helps M.O.M. be certain they are serving people who truly need their help, but enables the ministry to receive a large portion of free medications from pharmaceutical companies. “And we want to be sure we are seeing the people who really need help the most,” says Chris. “Once someone becomes a patient they have their own doctor they see every time they come in. We are blessed to have some of the best doctors that have ever come through Montgomery.”

 

“Because most of our patients cannot afford the cost of buying their own prescriptions, our drug assistance program is equally vital – typically providing $150,000 in free medications monthly,” explains Nancy. Drugs are donated through the indigent drug programs of major pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Merck and Lily, while M.O.M. also purchases many medications. Last year, M.O.M. spent $100,000 in medications alone. Medical supplies and medications are the main expense of M.O.M. “We are always willing to take unexpired and unopened medications,” says Nancy. “Medical equipment like canes and walkers, band aids, bandages and any kind of medical supplies are always welcome.”

 

Currently, M.O.M. has 10 volunteer doctors who donate their time and services each week.  Dr. Jack Evans, one of the doctors on site, says they could handle up to six more doctors to enable them to serve more people in the patient population.

 

Along with their in-house doctors, many area physicians donate their specialty services as well. “We have 100 doctors we can refer our patients out to,” says Nancy. This allows the patients at M.O.M. to receive further free care from specialty doctors in the area without cost to them.

In addition, Baptist Health Systems provide labs free of charge and largely subsidizes diagnostic tests to enable us to provide comprehensive health care beyond their primary setting. Baptist has been a vital partner for M.O.M. since its official incorporation in 1998. “We couldn’t exist without Baptist,” says Chris. “We are thought of as a Baptist entity.”  In 1998, the CEO of Baptist found an opportunity where he felt they needed to join forces and agreed to a five-year commitment from Baptist to fund Medical Outreach.. During that time, they began looking for funding sources to be self-sufficient. Today, M.O.M. is donor based.

 

While M.O.M. is still in the process of beginning to host an annual fund-raising event, they have found support from local churches, Sunday schools, civic groups, individual donors, small grants and the joint public charities hospital boards, health department and more. “We have renewed effort to be community supported,” says Chris. “When people come here, they are ready to give to us, and we want the community to know more about who we are and what we do because we think there would be so many more opportunities for us to serve more of the 42,000 without health insurance.” 

 

And the needs are not only financial. “We could see more patients if we had more volunteer doctors and volunteer nurses and data entry people.”  According to Nancy and Chris, the number of patients they serve is at the most they can handle.  “We are limited only by the number of doctors,” says Chris. 

 

One thing, M.O.M. is not limited by is the fact they are all about Jesus. “We see the work of God in our patients every single day,” says Chris. “There is such a sweet spirit in this place that reflects in all of the ways we see God taking care of our patients and of our needs.

 

“Every day when I come in to work I feel like I am heading to the mission field,” says Chris.  “Not everyone can get on a plane and fly to Africa to go on a medical mission trip, but anyone can come down the street and help serve those in our area that need it most,” says Chris.

 

M.O.M. is always looking for volunteers to help with data entry, patient check-in and other needs.  From organizing medications to helping assist the doctors there are several ways for anyone to be involved.  Even nurses who are retired are welcome to come and use their gifts as they seek to minister to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the medically under served.

 

If you are interested in learning more about how you can donate your time or finances to help Medical Outreach Ministries, contact them at (334) 281-8008 or visit www.momclinic.org.

 

Rachel Fisher loves learning what God is doing in the world around her and writing about it. She and her husband Chase are members at Strong Tower at Washington Park, a church plant of Common Ground Montgomery.

 

 

**Photos by Lori Mercer Photography

Last modified on Monday, 08 April 2013 11:44
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