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Cass Clinic expands health services

Treatment at Cass Clinic

A grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund is enabling Deacon Alex Plum to help launch a new program at Cass Health Clinic in Detroit that addresses clients’ daily needs.

JOHN E.HARNISH
Michigan Conference Communications

“I’ve heard Rev. Faith Fowler say it more than once,” says Deacon Alex Plum. “Jesus said, ‘Lo, I am with you always.’ Our job is to BE WITH people, to stay with people, to be there for people…always.”  Plum continues, “In a sense that is what the new program on social needs in connection with the Cass Free Health Clinic is all about.”

Since 1981 Cass Community United Methodist Church has hosted a free medical clinic for vulnerable people in conjunction with Wayne State School of Medicine. Medical students meet with individuals to try to address their need for prescriptions, blood pressure checks, glasses, and eye care. In addition, during COVID they have been giving COVID testing, vaccinations, and booster shots. They see about 15-25 persons per week or a total of 60-75 people monthly.

However, one of the things that wasn’t happening was helping people find ways to address some of the underlying social and environmental issues affecting their health. With a grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Deacon Plum has developed a program to do just that. It brings together his career as the Director of Clinical and Social Health Integration at Henry Ford Health System with his work as a Deacon at Cass Community United Methodist Church.  

Client at Cass Clinic
A Wayne State University student doctor takes a medical history with a patient on Saturday, February 5 at Cass Clinic. The patient, who has four children under age 5, was provided resources for Head Start enrollment in addition to primary care services and free medication. ~ photo courtesy Alex Plum

After six months of preparation, the program went live on Saturday, January 29,2022. Preparation included the training of volunteers through the “Transition to Success” Program developed in Detroit by former Matrix Human Services CEO Dr. Marcella Wilson. The program focuses on a relationship-oriented approach to helping people escape poverty. The volunteers create a relationship that lets people know they will be with them through their journey.

Here’s how it works. After individuals see the medical staff in the clinic, they are referred to Deacon Plum and the volunteers who talk with them about the other factors contributing to their health issues. This could include transportation, housing, isolation and loneliness, safety, or the lack of a social support network.

Mrs. Jones (not her real name) is an example. In her 50s, she is staying in a shelter because she lost her home to tax foreclosure. Her disabilities make it impossible for her to work. She came to the clinic with a bad cough and high blood pressure. After being checked out by the medical students and receiving her prescription, she met with Alex and the volunteers who asked her deeper questions about her living situation. One of the issues they identified was food in the shelter. The food was fine, but with few options, it was difficult for her to manage her blood sugar by balancing her diet. Working through the Riverstar Community Care Hub, the volunteers were able to help her identify food pantries that often have fresh fruits, gave her the phone numbers, explained how to contact them and how to get there. Alex said, “She left not only with a medical prescription but with new ways of managing her health. It’s about caring for the whole person including their spiritual and social as well as physical needs.”

Volunteer trained for Cass Clinic
~ A Cass Community Clinic volunteer receives instruction in the Transition To Success approach. ~ photo courtesy Alex Plum

For Alex, this calling and ministry can be traced back to his parents, the Rev. Janine (Chesaning: Trinity UMC) and Pete Plum. When Alex was growing up in Flint, his parents regularly took him with them when they volunteered at the North End Soup Kitchen. From an early age, Alex learned the role the church can play in helping people manage their lives. Those experiences planted the seeds of compassion and the desire to care about the whole person in the spirit of Christ. This new program at Cass carries on that ministry today.

Fowler says, “We are over the moon happy about this new component to the Saturday Clinic. Alex has recruited and trained a great group of volunteers who will help the patients connect with vital resources and the patients will help the volunteers (like the medical students) understand the complexity of poverty and the necessity of a multidisciplinary approach to the delivery of care.”

Alex’s work represents the mission of the Ordained Deacon in the United Methodist Church—to serve in the world on behalf of the church and to lead the church in servant ministry in the world. He says, “Between my work at Henry Ford and my ministry at Cass, I am doing the work of a Deacon–building bridges, working outside the traditional models to make Christ’s healing presence known. We do that by being with people in the sickness and health, through the burdens of poverty and the many issues they face, letting them know we care about them and that we will be with them always.”

~ For more information and ways in which you can help, visit www.cassumc.com,  www.cassclinic.com, or contact Rev. Alex Plum at plumalex@gmail.com.

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