Christ Community Health Services brings care to Frayser

Christ Community Health Services began serving the health needs of Frayser 10 years ago. A newer Raleigh facility ensures the organization works hard to bring health care to those who need it in Frayser.
Addressing the primary care needs in Frayser isn’t easy, but Christ Community Health Services works to help the need out of its clinic at 969 Frayser Blvd.
 
There are nearly 50 medical professionals who work out of the Frayser center, including medical and dental staff, pharmacy and behavioral health people.
 
Christ Community Health Services has eight physical locations and one mobile van for outreach to the homeless community serving 60,000 patients a year with 170,000 patient encounters a year. That includes medical, dental and integrative behavioral concerns.
 
Of the 60,000 patients served, about 20,000 of them are uninsured with another 20,000 to 30,000 Medicaid patients. The rest are Medicare, have commercial insurance or are part of programs such as the Ryan White HIV program or a family health refugee assessment program.
 
The Frayser location is one of the bigger sites in the Christ Community Health Services organization. It’s open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to noon. There usually is a Saturday clinic once a month.
 
The Raleigh location, which is convenient for some residents of the 38127 ZIP code, opened last September and will have a dental offering that opens in July.
 
Christ Community Health Services started 20 years ago when four medical students made a pact among themselves to address the health needs in Memphis. Following residency, they started Christ Community Health Services on South Third Street to serve South Memphis. Baptist Memorial Health Care provided a line of credit to keep them going, and at the five-year mark became a federally qualified health center. That move enabled the center to receive some federal grant money to offset uninsured visits and enabled them to add a second location in Binghampton.
 
The Frayser location followed 10 years ago, with a second location in the area opening last year in Raleigh. Other communities include Hickory Hill and Orange Mound along with central parts of the city. Those locations aren’t coincidental.
 
“There is a map that if you plot the racial distribution of our city you get a C shape where the African-American community is, starting with Raleigh to Frayser to the Medical District to South Memphis and over to Hickory Hill,” said Lance Luttrell, Chief Operating Officer for Christ Community Health Services. “White is east and to Midtown. If you plot where the medical providers are they’re almost exclusively in white areas. There are enough doctors in Shelby County but not in the right locations. So we’ve strategically located our practices where those needs are.”
 
The ability for patients to get an appointment and the level of care given is the same across the board, Luttrell said, whether someone has insurance or not. Anyone can call to make an appointment. All patients are placed on a sliding scale; a complete doctor’s visit can cost $25 for an uninsured patient up to $80 for someone with more resources.
 
The typical patient of the Frayser center lives in the community. But the transient nature of some of the city’s neighborhoods means patients end up living farther away but continue driving to the clinic they started at.
 
Christ Community Health Services cares for anyone in need, but there are a few types of services offered more than others, and many of the Frayser clinic’s patients are expectant mothers. When they visit, expectant mothers are placed in a cohort who are expecting delivery around the same time.
 
“The reason that’s a typical patient is not only because of that program, but we see ourselves as a complete family practice,” Luttrell said.
 
So the clinic helps the expectant mother and then follows care with the child.
 
Another patient type is men in their 40s and 50s. They typically have jobs but don’t always have insurance. They’ve often developed diabetes and Christ Community Health Services helps the patient take care of the chronic condition.
 
A fourth patient type is what Luttrell referred to as grandmothers now on Medicare. They might be old enough to qualify for Medicare and also qualify for Medicaid.
 
The Frayser clinic also has added integrated behavioral health services. It’s more than just the diagnosis of an ailment. The clinic’s professionals talk about depression or barriers that might exist to changing behaviors related to a diagnosis. A diabetic, for example, might have roadblocks that limit exercise or access to good food options.
 
The Frayser clinic has a dental outreach program that is a partnership with Head Start locations, several of which are in Frayser. They also work with the Achievement School District to come on sight to provide comprehensive treatment for children.
 
“Children’s ability to get to appointments depends on a parent getting to the appointment,” Luttrell said. “We can utilize public transportation through the bus system to meet children where they’re at.”
 
It’s important to understand that while Christ Community Health Services takes insurance and accepts grants, there is still a $2 million gap between services provided and reimbursements received. The organization is dependent on charitable contributions to close that gap.
 
In addition, Luttrell said it’s important that organizations know about the work Christ Community Health Services does so they can refer patients.

Read more articles by Lance Wiedower.

Lance is a veteran journalist with more than 16 years of experience in newsrooms in the Memphis area as a reporter and editor, including most recently as managing editor of The Daily News. He regularly contributes to The Daily News, including a biweekly travel column, The Daily Traveler. 
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