HHS head announces nationwide community health center expansion at Covenant Community Care

June 21st, 2012
Dotti Sharp, president of the Congress of Communities for Southwest Detroit Neighborhood, and Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS)

There are more than 8,000 community health centers in the United States, and Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), had abundant choices about where to announce $128.6M in federal grants to augment and strengthen the system, as part of the new national healthcare law to expand healthcare coverage to more Americans.

Yesterday (6/20/12), Sebelius stood in the waiting room at Covenant Community Care at 5716 Wellness in southwest Detroit to exemplify the importance of community health centers in providing quality healthcare to the poor, uninsured or underinsured.

“Community health centers are a proven and wonderful care model,” Sebelius said at the press conference. “They are one of the very best investments that our country can make for its future.”

Sebelius emphasized the positive aftereffects of investing in health centers. By providing access to quality primary healthcare to families, children and youth are healthier and do better in school, thus improving their chances for success in life. Healthier adults are better parents and are better able to work to support themselves and their families. Individuals who receive primary care are less likely to use expensive emergency room services.

Covenant Community Care is one of three grant recipients in Detroit. Covenant will receive $868,750 to build a community health center near I-94 and Moross Road on the east side of Detroit. The center is a partnership with St. John Hospital and Grace Community Church, and it will open this fall. The federal grant is expected to catalyze other funding to develop and sustain the project.

Covenant already serves more than 10,000 patients at its three service locations, including 5716 Wellness, which provides a full spectrum of primary medical and dental services. The new Moross center will enable Covenant to help thousands more.

“Our mission is the ministry of healing to the weakest and most vulnerable members of the community,” said Paul Propson, executive director of Covenant Community Care, at the podium with Sebelius. “Because we believe in the intrinsic equality of every child of God, our doctors seek to overcome every obstacle that our neighbors might find in their way in to realize their potential.”

Also receiving grants in Detroit are the Wellness Plan Medical Centers and Wayne County. Both received $650,000. The County will build a new community health center in Hamtramck.

Three other organizations in Michigan also received grants. Nationwide, grants were awarded to 219 health centers in 41 states. Community health centers already serve 20 million Americans. With the new grants, an additional 1.25 million patients will be helped, including nearly 60,000 in Michigan.

Dotti Sharp, a community leader, spoke at the press conference about her own lack of medical insurance after losing her full-time job. “I am a client of Covenant Community Care,” Dotti said. “At first, I thought there was a stigma and shame in attending a community health center. But the care they provide here is excellent, and the need in our community is so great.”

Dotti is president of the Congress of Communities for Southwest Detroit Neighborhoods. She also serves on the Covenant board and the board for the Housing division of Southwest Solutions, which partnered with Covenant to construct 5716 Wellness.

The new federal grants will create 5,640 jobs across the country for doctors, nurses, dentists and healthcare support staff. Community health centers already employ 138,000 staff, and are an important and integral source of employment in distressed communities, particularly since their work makes it possible for others to gain and sustain work.

When Covenant first began, a decade ago, it had four employees. It now has 85, and will be adding more as it expands.

“We started in a trailer, and we are now a trailblazer,” said Paul Propson, explaining the journey.

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