The Great Physicians of Detroit
In the heart of a failing city, health care is a critical need — and a strategic opportunity for God’s people to show, in word and deed, the Father’s great love for his children. Covenant Community Care, the only faith-based, federally funded health center in Michigan, is doing just that in Detroit.
Like most players on Detroit’s economic stage, Covenant Community Care (CCC) arose out of community demand. Across Detroit neighborhoods, from burgeoning Midtown to the West Village Historic District, entrepreneurs rise to meet the needs and desires of their consumer base. They open restaurants and decorate storefronts, money exchanging hands to pay for lattes or handmade goods.
But what happens when most of your customers can’t pay?
That was the dilemma facing Kathy Kleinert, DO, in 1999. After one Sunday service at Messiah Church in Southwest Detroit, the general practitioner noted to Pastor Bob Hoey her growing concerns about their surrounding neighbors. Kleinert had made house calls and even treated people in the street, and was especially conscious of those without insurance, all the while ignoring their inability to pay and poor hygiene. She always shared Christ, praying for clients and trying to point them to a local church. As she became aware of people without necessary medical care, she became increasingly driven to provide it. And she told Hoey that she’d treat all people, regardless of their ability to pay.
Thus Kleinert became the founding physician of one of Detroit’s largest health clinics operating on small co-pays and large amounts of grace.
“We try to treat each client as if they are Christ, regardless of their ability to pay,” says Hoey, co-founder of CCC and pastor of Messiah Church (part of the Evangelical Covenant denomination) for 18 years.
Opening in 1999, CCC is the only faith-based, federally funded health center in the state of Michigan. Although there are many free faith-based clinics throughout the state, they tend to be much smaller and volunteer-run. By contrast, all of CCC’s doctors and dentists are employed. And with 100 employees, the clinic has doubled in size every two years. CCC serves approximately 10,000 Detroiters annually in a city with approximately 200,000 residents who lack adequate health care.
“There’s a tremendous need in the community, and we want to meet our consumer demand, caring for as many people who come in,” said Paul Propson, CCC’s executive director. “If we could hire more doctors now, we’d see more people today. A lot of people are waiting to be seen.” …
CCC’s mission statement—”To show and share the love of God, as seen in the Good News of Jesus Christ, by providing integrated, affordable and quality health care to those who need it most”—is embossed in large letters behind the front desk. CCC staff member Rosie Verde Rios says patients frequently read the words, nodding to themselves, and comment to her after their appointment that they notice the difference.
“Our doctors are Covenant Community Care’s greatest strength. They most perfectly demonstrate the Christian witness,” says Paul Propson, CCC’s executive director. “They take time every day to model Jesus’ love for people.”
Best told me of a patient who was referred to CCC after being released from the hospital after suffering a heart attack. The staff worked with the patient to qualify for Medicaid, but were ultimately unable to secure it. Through several different avenues, their staff was able to get this patient all of his medicine free of charge, medicine that ordinarily would have totaled upward of $500.
“God has blessed our organization with tremendous gifts—financial gifts and blessings, as well as fulfilling needs. He’s been our provider,” said Propson. “We attribute our success in caring for people in God’s foundational love for Detroit. God loves Detroit. He’s looking for people to be his hands and feet to care for those he loves.”
At that, Propson paused for a second, mulling the words over a bit. “If we had another name for CCC, it would be God Loves Detroit Health Center.”
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