Providing health care for those struggling to afford it
For more than 20 years, nonprofit organization Cooperative Christian Ministries and Clinic has cared for the uninsured and underinsured population in Garland County, striving to improve their quality of life with an original mission to provide health care for those who couldn’t afford to pay for their own.
With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, which reduced the organization’s patient base from 1,000 to 150, its mission and the role in the community has changed, as medical insurance is now a reality for many of the under-served in the community. As a result, CCMC has been able to expand its services to the same population in need of assistance.
“That allowed us to step back and look at what we were doing and the type of product that we were delivering and who we were serving,” said Lynn Blankenship, CCMC executive director. “We stepped back and decided that poverty was the common
denominator through everyone that we saw.”
CCMC still takes care of the population that has no access to medical insurance, but is now able to focus on helping poverty-stricken individuals help themselves out of poverty with case management and a variety of classes.
“We do a complete assessment on anyone that comes in and we identify individuals who are ready to transition from poverty into self-sufficiency and we offer a class to allow them to gain the skills to do that,” Blankenship said.
CCMC offers three programs: the medical/dental clinic, case management and Getting Ahead classes.
“Our overall encompassing mission is Bridge to Hope, which is the community focus on a solution for poverty,” Blankenship said.
Getting Ahead classes are designed to teach individuals who are experiencing poverty how they can create a path to a more stable, secure future for themselves and their family. Individuals must go through a qualification process and prove their income category and that they do not have medical insurance.
“For the people that qualify for insurance, and believe it or not there are still people out there that don’t know that Arkansas has insurance available, we help them with that step, too. But, that process takes so long that we provide their medical care in the meantime,” Blankenship said. “In attending the class, we look to them to tell us what their world looks like and to identify for us what the hurdles are, why they’re in poverty and why they haven’t succeeded to this point,” Blankenship said. “They’re going to identify several things along the way.”
Arkansas is the fourth-poorest state in the United States, Blankenship said, with a rate of 19 percent of the households at the poverty level.
“In Garland County, it’s about 21 percent, so we’re higher than the state. In Hot Springs, the last U.S. census showed 26 percent. Another telling statistic is the children in poverty, 31.4 percent.”
CCMC has a primary goal, broken down into four categories:
• Empower: To empower under-resourced individuals to find solutions for more prosperous lives for themselves and our community.
• Educate: From the input of the empowered individuals, creating community conversations to educate on the issues of poverty.
• Engage: To train and engage all community sectors in Bridges Out of Poverty constructs.
• Equip: To equip various sectors of the community to work together to create a sustainable community.
“We’ve had some really good statistics with people that have come out of our classes that have increased in income. We kind of measure small steps,” Blankenship said. “A lot of the individuals that come into the classes have a distrust of institutions as a general rule. Banking is one — they come into the class without any kind of relationship with a bank, and about 55 percent of them leave class with an understanding and a relationship with a bank in some way.”
She added that, by the end of May, CCMC will have graduated 10 Getting Ahead classes.
The classes aren’t necessarily only for those in poverty, Blankenship added, because anyone can benefit from the classes. It’s a program for people who want to change their lives.
“Anyone who wants to transition from where they are to something that looks better,” she said. “We want to work with them and, just like the old saying, not just give them a fish but teach them to fish.”
Call CCMC, 133 Arbor St., at 318-1153 for more information.