an answer to the health care debate, in Athens, Georgia

More on Jubilee partners in following entries…   I’m fast forwarding to our next stop in Athens, Georgia, today, and a tremendously refreshing and innovative  “free clinic.”   While the health care debate  grinds on in D.C., a solution — at least a partial solution — is evolving in the trenches out here.   Mercy Health Center (MHC) is “…a community of volunteers [that] provides quality healthcare in a Christ-centered environment to our under-served neighbors.”   MHC was started  at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Athens  in 2001.   Over time, it became ecumenical and moved to a new facility on Oglethorpe Avenue.   Like an Amish barn raising, the clinic was partially built by appreciative patient capenters, plumbers, electricians…   Each morning at the clinic is started  with prayer among the staff and volunteers.   And in the course of a month, there are some 400 volunteer doctors, nurses, general citizenry and University of Georgia students doing medicine, intake, janitorial, filing…   There are also six full-time and three part-time paid staff.   Mary Baxter is an assitant administrator here.   During a tour, she told me that several churches in town donate monthly to the clinic, several others donate quarterly.   Besides monetary donations, other churches provide “in-kind” donations.   For instance,  several churches cook dinners for the evening clinic workers a couple times a week and local  places like Subway and Chic’ Filet donate food.    Another church does yard work at the clinic.   It’s Ms. Baxter’s contention that it is, indeed, the church’s responsibility to help the poor.   And MHC is, indeed,  trying to do it’s part.   Last year there were approximately 5,000 patient visits for people below the poverty line who have no health care insurance.   And the clinic provides a full scope of services from dental, to cardiology, to gynecology, to physical therapy, to vision, to neurology, to general surgery, to orthopedics…   In fact, one of the most poignant (and inherently tragic) health care stories was of a local woman who had a severe, compound leg fracture.   MHC Director Tracy Thompson told me the woman had no health care insurance and couldn’t, in any way, afford the $3,600 she’d need to put up front for an orthopedic  doctor.   She  excrutiatingly limped around on this badly broken  leg for 10 days, finally connecting with MHC in desperation, and tears.   “I prayed with her on the phone,” said Ms. Baxter, who then arranged for her to come in.   MHC’s orthopedic doctor assessed the extent of the injury, then helped set in motion a series of things that would allow her to get surgery at Athens  Regional Hospital, for free…   Ms. Thompson gave me a fact sheet on MHC.   It noted MHC has served over 2,950 patients since 2001.   In 2009 alone, approximately 12,562 hours were donated to the clinic.   The majority of MHC patients are “working poor.”   Approximately 35% of MHC’s clients are Hispanic…   Ms. Baxter also explained the medical help is intertwined with spiritual help here.   That is after each medical visit, patients are given the option of going to another part of the complex where members of “prayer teams” talk and pray about an individual’s concerns, etc.   An holistic approach that is so much the essence of the ethos of the clinic.   Note:   MHC also has a pharmacy stocked with things like doctor free samples and financed, in part, by a $2,000 a month stipend from Athens  Regional Hospital.   Among it’s programs are:   “Mercy on the Road” (in partnership with St. Mary’s Hospital).   Mercy volunteers take a “medical bus” around the countyr to screen blood pressure, blood sugar levels and provide medical resource information…     “Lay Health Promotion Program.”   This is a programt hat trains people from at-risk communities to become health advocates in those communities.   A 40-hour course trains people in detecting high blood pressure, breast cancer and diabetes.

About Joe Schriner

Common man, Common sense, Uncommon solutions. "In an era when presidential campaigns run on multi-million dollar war chests, lavish fundraising dinners and high gloss television ads, Joe Schriner is a different breed of candidate." - The Herald, Monterey, California. Joe at a glance... Age: 56. Family: Husband of 17 years, and father. Faith: Catholic. Home state: Ohio. Graduate of Bowling Green State University. Journalist and author. Also a former addictions counselor, with an emphasis on family systems. Independent presidential candidate in four successive election cycles. On the road campaigning extensively. In between campaign tours, now does part-time house painting and light handyman work to make ends meet (aka: Joe the painter). Volunteer work with: Brown County (OH) Board of Mental Health; Catholic Worker outreach to the poor in the inner city of Cleveland; We Are the Uninsured Healthcare Movement in Ohio. Inner city youth league baseball and soccer coach (won some, lost some). Hobbies: Trying to beat his wife at "Scrabble," weight lifting, swimming, photography, sandlot baseball, soccer, football and basketball with his children. In Joe's words... I'm, for the most part, your average Midwesterner, I told the Duluth (MN) News. I jog in a pair of gray sweats. My favorite spots to eat are your basic diners. Whats more, I cut my own lawn. Oh, and Im running for president. I told the Lancaster (OH) Eagle Gazette that the reason I am running for president is that I am a concerned parent. That is, I don't want to leave a world of climate change, war, abortion, rural and inner city poverty, violent streets, nuclear proliferation, astronomical national debt, little social security, dwindling access to healthcare to our children. What sane parent would? Now, I didn't go to Harvard, Yale, or even Rutgers for that matter. I went to Bowling Green State University where I majored in journalism. I then worked for a couple intermediate-sized Ohio newspapers. I later became an addictions counselor. And in 1990, as a lead up to the presidential run, I took my journalism skills on the road to look for common sense solutions to the societal problems I outlined above. And in some tremendously extensive, cross-country research (that has continued during my years of campaigning), I've found those solutions.        Getting policies enacted... Amidst abject poverty on the Southside of Chicago, I learned how to end homelessness. In Atwood, Kansas (pop. 1,500), I learned how to balance the National Budget. In Grand Junction, Colorado, I learned how to get quality healthcare for all. In High Springs, Florida, I learned how to end global warming, for good. In Eunice, New Mexico, I learned how to unequivocally solve the immigration issue. And it was with this information, and much more, that I am running for president. No big money. No special interest backing. Just with tried solutions to make the country a much better place for our kids. While campaigning for president the past 12 years (and over 100,000 road miles), I've been telling people about these answers in hundreds of talks, more than 1,000 newspapers, a lot of radio, television and in a very up-close-and-personal way on the street corners of America. I told Channel 10 News in Albany, Georgia, that I can get a policy enacted long before I ever get to D.C., if somebody picks up on an idea and tries it in their town. And who knows how far out it will ripple out from there. So in a small way, I said during a talk at Toledo University, I am already president now! The students all smiled, politely. Be the change... I am also a firm believer that this won't be a better world for our children until more of us follow the saying: Be the change you want to see in the world. In this pursuit, my family and I try to live the messages we are conveying, at least the best we can. On a radio station in Indianapolis, Indiana, I said our platform asks some people to consider moving into the inner cities of America to live side-by-side with the poor. So our family moved to the heart of Cleveland, Ohio, where we volunteered at an outreach to the poor. I told the Tifton (GA) Gazette that our family has also set aside a Christ Room for the homeless at our place. And in D.C. we'd do the same thing in the West Wing. Just like I may well be looking for a youth baseball team to coach when I get there. I recently coached an inner city Rec. Center League team in Cleveland. On draft day I picked the kids who looked liked they'd be picked last, first. And apparently I did pretty well with this, because we lost almost all the games. Many of the kids on the team, sadly, didn't have a father at home. And many of these families don't have healthcare insurance either, just like two million other Ohioans. To help try to reverse this, my children and I have done volunteer work for the We Are The Uninsured Movement in Ohio. The reason our children are involved is because Liz and I want them learning as much about helping others -- as they do learning about math, science and English, I told The Mississippi Press. In fact, our education platform calls for a lot more local community involvement with students. I we also propose many more classes be focused on environmental awareness. To do our family's part for the environment, we created a "Kyoto Protocol Home Zone." (I even put a "Kyoto Protocol Home Zone" sign up in the front yard, to Liz's embarrassment.) We live in small places, use little air conditioning, cut the thermostat back in the winter, bicycle or walk almost everywhere within a five-mile radius and we recycle practically everything. And in D.C., we'd do all this as well. I mean, those big black limos alone can be such gas guzzlers anyway, right? Heal the family... "My concern for the environment, for the disadvantaged, for the unborn flows out of my spirituality. I'm Catholic, and trying to live the essence of the Gospel message is what I try to be about," I told columnist Mike Haynes of the Amarillo (TX) Globe News. And part of living the Gospel message is being centered in faith, having time for family, being concerned about others. I'm not the poster guy for all that, but I try. What's more, its Liz and my role to make sure our children have a wholesome and emotionally healthy upbringing. And I have some additional expertise in the latter area. Besides having been a journalist, I was also a counselor who worked with family system dynamics. And it is my contention that the current breakdown of the family in America (parents being physically or emotionally abusive, or absent, or addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, media entertainment, work) is creating a constellation of societal problems, I told ABC News in Monterey, California. Because of these dysfunctional family dynamics (and they seem to be everywhere these days), kids grow up depressed, angry and emotionally empty. As a result, incidence of domestic violence, street violence, addiction, mental and emotional problems spike in kind for the next generation, and the next... "So to heal the country, you have to heal the family. Theres just no way around it," I told the Bangor (ME) News. And we have a solid plan to do this, based on research weve done in Arthur, Illinois, Holbrook, Arizona, Carmel Valley, California, etc. Snow shoveling... Now when I'm not grappling with these pressing societal issues, my wife Liz is beating me at "Scrabble" (an issue in itself), or I'm playing racquetball with some buddies, or I'm trading baseball cards with our kids. That is, I'm doing all this in between doing chores for Liz. During a campaign talk in Wichita, Kansas, I was asked what the first thing I'd do as president was. I responded that "wed get to D.C. in January, so it would probably be snowing. If that, indeed, were the case -- the first thing Liz would have me do is: shovel the walk. " That will probably be a new one for the Secret Service. And so it goes... Joe

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