Two of my passions have always been education and health care. Moving to Oklahoma City in 1987, I quickly became immersed in activities designed to improve education and health care for those in need in our community. During the years I served as President and CEO of INTEGRIS Health, I was involved in starting a free health clinic, INTEGRIS Community Clinic, and the first hospital-sponsored charter school, now named the Stanley F. Hupfeld Academy.
Under my leadership, INTEGRIS Health made an initial three-year financial commitment to underwrite the salary for the first staff person for the Health Alliance for the Uninsured. I am grateful that Bruce Lawrence, who succeeded me in 2010, maintains that commitment each year.
As I transitioned to the INTEGRIS Foundation, Dr. R. Murali Krishna asked me to consider serving on the Board of Directors of the Health Alliance. Pam Cross-Cupit, HAU’s Executive Director, arranged for me to visit most of the free or charitable clinics with whom the Health Alliance was working. I spoke with staff and volunteers at clinics, learning about the challenges they faced in caring for the medically vulnerable. Frankly, I was hooked by the potential the Health Alliance has to improve this situation.
When I was asked to succeed Dr. Krishna as board president, I said “yes, with one stipulation – the board must be willing to completely devote the organization to making meaningful changes in the fragmented safety net that worked for some, but left far too many out.” I am very pleased to see what our collective efforts have accomplished. The fragmentation that once existed has been largely replaced with improved, coordinated care for low-income, uninsured persons.
The Health Alliance’s work isn’t finished. There are still far too many working adults without health insurance and without a regular source of health care. These members of our community struggle with chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis. Depression and respiratory illnesses are common. Too many Oklahomans don’t have access to recommended health screenings that would catch diseases in the early stages when they can be treated more effectively.
What keeps me involved with the Health Alliance is the knowledge that we are working collaboratively with dozens of community partners and funders to address unmet health needs and that we do this in compassionate but efficient ways. And when we have a process in place to meet one need, we move on to another. This is how we build a healthier community together.
“I needed my esophagus stretched because food would not go down. You could be eating and it just stops. It is very painful. The clinic set up a referral to a specialist through the Health Alliance. It happened quickly and it was a blessing. Before, I was miserable, scared to eat, losing weight. I was living on ramen noodles because it goes down easy.
The job I was on, I couldn’t afford the health insurance at $1,200 a month. That procedure would probably have cost me $3,000 - $4,000. I don’t know what I would have done without the clinic and without the Health Alliance. Now I take a pill every day for acid reflux and it keeps it calmed down.
I would talk to others that need help and tell them that this clinic really cares and they send you to get things done properly.” Malvern Montgomery, age 55
The Health Alliance for the Uninsured (HAU) began as a collaborative effort of Oklahoma County Medical Society, Oklahoma Hospital Association, and Oklahoma City-County Health Department, with many other partners contributing to the effort. There are many stakeholders in activities related to healthcare for low-income, uninsured persons in Oklahoma County. HAU has forged strong working relationships with the following entities:
Cooperative Central Pharmacy – Good Shepherd Ministries, the Homeless Alliance, Oklahoma County Social Services, seven additional charitable clinics. Patient assistance program enrollment – Baptist Mission Center, Cross and Crown Clinic, INTEGRIS Community Clinic, Mid-Del Community Clinic, Lighthouse Medical Clinic, and St. Charles Clinic. Recent additions are the three OU Physicians/OKC-County Health Department clinics.
Care Connection – INTEGRIS Health, Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City, St. Anthony Hospital, four independent imaging centers, approximately 250 specialist physicians/surgeons, Variety Care and Community Health Centers, Inc. (federally qualified health centers), and the following charitable clinics, Baptist Mission Center, Cross and Crown Clinic, Christ Community Health Coalition, Crossings Community Clinic, Good Samaritan Health Clinic of Edmond, Good Shepherd Ministries, INTEGRIS Community Clinic, Lighthouse Medical Clinic, Mid-Del Community Clinic, Ministries of Jesus, Open Arms Clinic, Shifa Clinic, and St. Charles Clinic.
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