Bishop William Young and Pastor Dianne Young, graduates of Booker T. Washington High School, decided in 1991 to begin the Healing Center Full Gospel Baptist Church in the Oakhaven Community of Memphis.
They chose a site previously occupied by a white congregation and a private school founded by white residents of the predominantly-white community. As the community changed, the Youngs were among the first African-American residents and raised their children in that community.
Resting in the shadow of the Memphis International Airport, Oakhaven has a poverty rate of 32 percent. The ongoing concerns include a cycle of generational poverty, substance use disorder and chronic disease (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, stroke).
The Young’s vision began with spiritual leadership and soon expanded to link residents to essential community services. Over the next 17 years, the Healing Center provided spiritual, physical and emotional fitness services as they worked to build a bridge from Oakhaven to opportunity.
But the Young’s saw the need to do more.
A fortuitous meeting between the Young’s and Dave Stern, MD, from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), was the catalyst for a second wind. Stern’s passion for those struggling with chronic disease came from his family’s struggle with their late son Alan, a law student who lost a battle for recovery from mental illness and substance use disorder (SUD) in 2008.
Stern saw, first hand, how a system of fragmented health and social services fails to respond in a coordinated manner to the multi-faceted challenges of mental and physical health, along with substance use, and other barriers.
The Youngs and Stern envisioned a free clinic on the campus of the church at 3885 Tchulahoma Road. The Wellness & Stress Clinic of Memphis would integrate physical and mental health, treatment of SUD and careful attention to social services.
Stern connected with Dr. Peter Hossler, a faculty member at Rhodes College. Hossler’s research focused on resourcing and running free clinics. Much of this work suggested that sustainable health improvement could be achieved by linking the talents and resources of institutions of higher education to under-served communities through partnerships with trusted community anchors.
Hossler became the clinic’s program director, and the model of care was formulated: huddles of experts from each area developing an integrated treatment plan with each patient.
Faculty in the major educational institutions in Memphis agreed to volunteer time along with students to provide closely supervised care at no charge. Participants include faculty and students from UTHSC (medicine, pharmacy, the physicians’ assistant program and nursing), University of Memphis (social work), Memphis Area Legal Services (law) and Rhodes College (nutrition and fitness).
Laboratory tests will be provided at no charge by LabCorp and a grant from the state of Tennessee will partially cover administrative expenses. The City of Memphis was a key partner in funding the necessary repairs to the facility.
The first day of service was April 23 and the second was on May 14, with the schedule projected to increase over several months to once per week.
(For more information, call 901-370-4673.)