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From left Matt Fleming, Covenant Community Care program coordinator of the mobile health missions team, Cathy Wenz M.D., offi ce manager Sharon Gray and Zora Denson, Grace Community Church’s director of development and community relations. photo by Ann L. Fouty.

May 16, 2013
A new medical and faith partnership has developed on the border of Grosse Pointe.

Grace Community Church on Moross includes Covenant Community Care as another arm of its outreach programs — programs already including tutors, softball teams, a food bank and counseling services.

Faith-based Covenant provides medical and dental care for adults and children covered by Medicaid, Medicare and health plans. Covenant Care especially attends to those who are under-insured and uninsured. They now have an option to receive regular medical care and establish a relationship with a doctor.

"When we made the announcement (of the partnership) to the church, we got a standing ovation," said Rev. Brian Hochhalter, Grace's lead minister. "There is great joy that we are doing something to reach into the community."

"Our hope and healing is taking people who have gone to other places and reached a dead end, a dead end, a dead end," said Matt Fleming, Covenant's program coordinator for the mobile health missions team. "This is great to think the first time (partnering) with a church. It's a great opportunity to see spirit care and medical care working together. We are providing affordable care."

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One of three doctors at the Moross site, Cathy Wenz M.D. explained it is staffed with board-certified doctors who are attached to St. John Providence Health System and can provide all medical attention any other medical doctor's office offers. Dentists are also available.

Wenz went on to say this is a "wonderful way to serve" both adults and children. Uninsured adults won't see a doctor until it's necessary and children generally need immediate medical attention. This facility, one of five in the Covenant group, is open Tuesdays and Thursdays and waiting for more patients so hours can be expanded.

Fleming added, "We are showing God's love to those on the brink."

Since January, the staff, housed in a modular facility in Grace's parking lot, has been seeing those in need of athletic and preschool physicals or vaccines, filling prescriptions or patients afflicted with pink eye, colds, conjunctivitis, tinnitus and upper respiratory infections and filling prescriptions. The clinic offers primary care and obstetric services.

"Along with medical help, patients and doctors and nurses build a relationship," said Zora Denson, Grace's director of development and community relations.

The clinic is open limited hours until the near-by medical facility is remodeled. When the new facility is completed this fall, the 6,000-square-foot building will provide regular office hours and possibly Saturday hours, Denson said.

The one-story facility will have nine exam rooms and six dental chairs.

Construction will cost $1.1 million.

Two immediate positive results from the new facility, Fleming said, is the creation of construction jobs and improvement of a former doctor's office that stood empty for decades. And there is a possibility other small businesses will appear once patients come regularly.

"We've renovated an abandoned building. Other businesses can start up — a coffee shop could start up," Denson said. "It provides the businesses an opportunity to invest in the community."

Wenz said she sees about 18 people per day, in 20-minute intervals.

There are costs attached to seeing a Covenant Care doctor and people will be billed on a sliding scale. "And no one is turned away," Denson said.

In addition to the medical and dental services Covenant offers, a benefits counselor is on site, who will help patients find resources and navigate the health system, Fleming said.

In 2012, some 2,000 children were provided $800,000 worth of medical services through Covenant Community Care that receives federal funding, private grants, donations and fundraises to provide medical, dental, behavioral health care, cover staff costs and pharmacy services. And if the patients ask, the staff will pray with them.

The journey

Grace church began exploring a health partnership component four years ago, Hochhalter said.

"It was a low level discussion (with St. John). In the course of the conversation (we asked) how can we have a positive impact on the under-insured or uninsured? I know some of the people involved in Covenant. They were talking about a second location."

Hochhalter mentioned the church had a location and thought a partnership would be a benefit for both Grace Church and Covenant Care.

"We are very concerned, as is anybody who lives in this neighborhood," he said. "We have a sports program that reaches 2,000 children in Detroit with organized recreation. We have a reading, tutoring program. We are teaching every willing Detroit third-grader to read at or above grade level. We are finding success to have a counseling center. Covenant completes the circle of services we need to offer in Detroit, Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe and surrounding communities. We care for the people who come."

"People will have their own doctor. They will have the dignity of having their own doctor," Fleming said of the patients who are in transition, self-employed, unemployed or have lost their insurance.

"It is a great job. It's pretty exciting," Hochhalter said.

For more information, call (313) 626-2600.

Covenant Community Care is located at 20901 Moross, Detroit, east of I-94 on the campus of Grace Community Church.

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