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Stress and Wellness Clinic: help in the time of COVID-19

A fully staffed medical clinic — social workers, physicians, nurses, medical students, nursing students, support medical personnel — operates each Monday on the campus of The Healing Center in Oakhaven. 

Compassionate smiles are carefully covered by masks because of the pandemic, but there is no masking of the cheerful voices — from the intake desk all the way back to the medical examination rooms.

Anyone can walk into the Stress and Wellness Clinic and get help. Whether it’s a medical condition, psychological issue, or some mental challenge, a caring staff of professionals is on hand to assist.

Bishop William M. Young Sr. (Photo: Johnathan Martin/TSD Archives)

“This dream is 47 years in the making,” said Bishop William Young, founder of The Healing Center Church at 3885 Tchulahoma Rd. and the clinic’s visionary.

“Back in 1977, I became the first Black chaplain at the mental institution (Western Mental Health Institute) up in Bolivar. Four years later, I became the first Black chaplain in the Methodist Hospital system. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to help our people.”

Counseling services, referrals, answers to questions about the COVID-19 and medical assistance in the pandemic have been invaluable for a community struggling with blatant disparity in healthcare.

Many families do not have medical coverage. Free medical and social services have been a lifeline.

Young said because African Americans have a long history of mistrust of the medical and psychiatric communities, mental health and undiagnosed chronic conditions hit minorities especially hard.

“Early in my ministry, I found that Black people won’t go see a psychiatrist or seek treatment for depression and other mental disorders,” said Young, “but they will come and counsel with their pastor. That’s how ‘Suicide and the Black Church Conference’ came about.”

The Stress and Wellness Clinic is an ambitious expansion of outreach to the community. Entire families come in, children and all. Everyone gets checked out. Everyone gets the help they need “without money and without price.”

Julie Meiman (left), a masters student in social work and intern, consults with her University of Memphis professor of social work, Cherry Malone. (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

“We work with families to access all of their needs,” said Julie Meiman, an intern working on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Memphis.

“Whether it’s housing, or food — whatever the need is, we are here to direct them to the place where help is available. This is so much more than just a clinic. I have learned so much.”

A drive-thru COVID-19 testing center was set up on the parking lot.

“We were testing people by appointment,” said Pastor Dianne Young, a facilitator of the clinic and Young’s wife.

“But of course, if people come up here without an appointment, we never turned them away. If they walked up and didn’t have a vehicle, we didn’t turn them away.”

Since the first rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in mid-December, emphasis has shifted from testing to vaccinations, Pastor Dianne said.

The clinic just completed inspection as a potential site for the vaccine.

 “I think inspection of our facilities went well,” said Pastor Dianne. “Becoming a vaccination center will be extremely important for the Oakhaven community. Residents who can’t go far because of transportation challenges can come right up here to the clinic and take their shots.”

Clinic Director Peter Hossler, a professor of Urban and Community Health at Rhodes College, said it has been important for the clinic to be a place where right information about the pandemic can be dispensed, in addition to medical services.

 “There is a great fear of COVID, and that’s understandable,” said Hossler. “We make an intentional effort in creating a safe place at the Stress and Wellness Clinic. Anyone coming in for medical screenings will find every staff volunteer masked and taking every possible precaution.”

The clinic is open every Monday evening from 5-8 p.m. For more information, call 901-370-4673.

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