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Beth McKee-Huger: A new approach to health care is growing in Greensboro

This article originally appeared in the Greensboro News & Record.

Mustard Seed is a holistic community health organization and clinic that was planted in Cottage Grove in southeast Greensboro, and is growing into a prototype for health systems.

It not only provides high-quality primary medical and mental health care, it takes extra steps to help people face the barriers to good health. Lack of healthy food? There’s a community garden. Stress from family members with mental illness? Counseling is provided. Isolation? There are group activities, even when group members don’t know each others’ languages. Fear of crime? The neighborhood association partners with police.

The model is built on teamwork.

What difference does this make?

  • An elderly African American woman who lives near the clinic has struggled to take her medications as prescribed because of family stress. A doctor and social worker have made home visits to address medications, stress, family dynamics and problems related to the 2018 tornado. The community nurse does blood pressure checks and community health workers focus on stress and case management. This wrap-around care has helped keep her on track during a very difficult time when she might otherwise be in the hospital.
  • An elderly Burmese woman has also worked with several members of the Health Outreach Team and clinic to address her health concerns, including PTSD from trauma that she suffered in her home country. The PTSD evaluation will help Elon Law prepare her citizenship application.
  • A young Latina woman who has struggled with chronic and severe depression for most of her life. She started with counseling but, over time, she built enough trust to see the doctor and try an antidepressant. She’s now feeling much better and is working on prioritizing her health and weight.
  • Without health insurance for primary care, people often wait until they are seriously ill before going to a hospital emergency department. Their lives are complicated by stress and pain and poverty. And then they get the medical bills that they may never be able to pay.

Health systems are changing, recognizing that, in addition to excellent medical care to treat severe diseases, our community can work together to address the underlying causes of illness and keep people healthier. The concept makes sense — but actually doing health in a new way can be complicated. As an independent health center intentionally located in a community without other health care, Mustard Seed Community Health can be one demonstration of how to integrate primary care with mental health services, concern for housing, opportunities for physical exercise and fresh food in the neighborhood. .

This works: 70.5% of patients diagnosed with diabetes brought down their A1C test below 8% at the most recent visit; 72.2% of patients with hypertension had a blood pressure of less than 140/90. Without this success, chronic illness can spiral out of control; diabetic coma and massive stroke would have drastic impact on patients, their families, health care systems, employers of workers juggling caregiving responsibilities, and community agencies serving vulnerable people.

Mustard Seed reduces the human and financial cost of illness for an average patient cost of $590 this year. Since patients with limited income and without insurance pay on a sliding scale, typically $20 a visit, Mustard Seed relies on donations to support the remaining costs of high-quality care. Individuals, businesses and faith communities can choose to sponsor a Day of Health in honor or memory of someone special, covering those clinic expenses for a day.

Community Appreciation Day on Friday will be an opportunity to share hot dogs with Cottage Grove neighbors, tour the clinic, and hear more about ways to support Mustard Seed.

Cottage Grove For Life Newsletter


FALL 2015 Newsletter
In this issue:
Hampton Circle of Friends
Cottage Grove Neighborhood Association
Mustard Seed Community Health
New Hope Groups
English classes
Cottage Grove and Purpose Built Communities
Master Gardeners
Healthy Homes
BCBSNC grant
Save the Date for Housing Summit

Circle of Friends launches support for Hampton Elementary School:
Hampton Elementary School is in the center of the Cottage Grove Community and essential for the goal of high quality education from cradle to career or college. Principal Thyais Maxwell and the entire faculty and staff are committed to an ambitious school improvement plan. The Circle of Friends is a group of over fifty people from all sectors of the Greensboro community committed to this cause, the school, and the children of the Cottage Grove neighborhood. The Circle of Friends serves by volunteering wherever their skills and influence can touch and change a child’s life and where needed and by providing the material and financial resources to support the programmatic needs of the children. Priorities this year are:

1. A mentoring program, already well established through the partnership with NCA&T, is seeking cohort of adults to serve in a one-on-one relationship with students identified by the school who either desire such a relationship or would be greatly benefited by one. Thomas Griffis, who served last year as a mentor is the “captain” of this initiative and will be reporting in more detail on the program, its important value, and its need for committed volunteers.

2. ACES (After School Care and Enrichment Services) program, providing academic support, enrichment experiences, and recreational activities while emphasizing the values of character, respect, responsibility, and discipline. Many of Hampton’s students whose parent or parents are working are “latch key kids,” going home at the end of the school day for hours of unsupervised time because they cannot afford ACES. Our goal is to raise at least $10,000 for scholarships. Tax deductible gifts may be made to the Hampton Elementary School, 2301 Trade Street, Greensboro, NC 27401. A gift of $50 will fund one child for a week, a gift of $200 will fund one for a month, and a gift of $1,000 will fund the child for the balance of the year.

3. Reading makes a huge difference in the academic success of the students. In order to be a Reading Buddy or to work in classrooms with students, you must register as a volunteer at the Guilford County School web site, www.gcsvolunteers.com. As you complete the registration, designate Hampton Elementary as the school in which you want to volunteer, mark the areas in which you are interested, and the times you may be available. Upon your approval, Ms. Walser-Desautels, the social worker and volunteer coordinator at the school, will contact you by email and assign you to a teacher. The teacher will send you an email to determine the specific area of interest and times that work within the class schedule. Also, if you would let me know that you have completed the registration, I will be able to keep a record of our involvement. You will build relationships with them while supporting their growth in reading. The Reading Buddies from Christ United Methodist Church and the Hamilton Lakes Lions Club have found this to be a very rewarding experience. Contact Carolyn McKinney comkville@aol.com or 336-638-8682.

4. Robotics will encourage students to be interested in science, technology, and math. We plan to conduct robotics for grades 3-5. We’ll have them working with the LEGO robotics kits. We have spoken to the executive director of NC FIRST (the organization that manages all robotics from K-12 in the state of NC), Marie Hopper, and we’ve managed to work some very good things out: NC FIRST will give us any robotics kits we’ll need for free. Hampton already has some kits (I’ll be doing an inventory check on Wednesday) but if we need any extras, we know who to ask. We’ll have the kids work on the First Lego League challenge from last year. It is in our best interest to give the kids a practice year before signing them up for the actual competition. We’ll work the kids through a curriculum prepared by Carnegie-Mellon University. Ms. Hopper recommended it to us. NC FIRST will train us as mentors; the training session typically lasts about 2 hours, to be scheduled soon. Robotics at Hampton will definitely come to fruition; it’s up to us to make sure that it comes fast. Thank you very much. Contact Yusuf Olakoba olakobayusuf@gmail.com

Hampton Saturdays enrich students’ lives with music, art, gardening, exercise play, and other activities on the second Saturday morning of each month. Parents join in the activities, enjoying healthy interactions with children, volunteers, and the Hampton team.