Promise Healthcare (Promise) may sound like just another name in the sea of health-care providers we live in, but what it offers is much more than a name, it is a healthcare home, and that is a promise. Promise grew out of the efforts of many dedicated individuals who saw a need for quality, affordable healthcare for all people in our community. Though we are rich in terms of medical resources in some ways, there are many gaps and cracks that get in the way of access for all. The folks who are now Promise, looked around and saw the potential for Frances Nelson to take up this mission, and thus began the journey.
Frances Nelson was already a familiar organization in CU. It had been managed as a part of the Community Health Improvement Clinic of Decatur, but the Promise visionaries wanted to make it a truly local resource so it could respond most effectively to local needs. The group took on the task of bringing Frances Nelson home and joined this with a new organization, SmileHealthy. Frances Nelson is dedicated to providing affordable and accessible high quality physical and mental health care services to all, especially the medically underserved population of Champaign County. SmileHealthy picks up from there, providing excellent oral health care.
I write this article as a member of the Promise family. I am a patient of Frances Nelson and SmileHealthy. I am also a graduate of the University of Illinois with a Masters and Doctorate, and up until the expansion of Medicaid, no health insurance. When I walk into the clinics, I am greeted as a member of a shared community of care. Each time I come for an appointment, I learn more about the gracious people who work at Promise and the sense of community grows. Some ask about a recent trip I took, others just nod hello as they hustle about. I feel a powerful undercurrent of warmth and care from everyone I meet. Their commitment to service and readiness to meet the needs of all comers is tangible. Each time I see my doctor our relationship grows. She takes an interest in what is going on in my life because it is part of my context as a patient and human being. In this way, her approach to my care is one that starts with my humanity. I have also taken advantage of the mental health services. As many, but not all CU community members know, we have very limited access to mental health services. There are very long waiting lists and many find it difficult to address basic needs like medication management. Frances Nelson is an underused resource in this area and staff hope the word will spread about the availability of services so that people can find help they need.
The expansion of Medicaid and the Affordable Healthcare Act are adding to what Promise is able to do for our community. There was already a sliding scale fee system in place, and there are now staff on-site who help people find out what assistance they might be eligible for and how to apply. I took full advantage of these folks to get myself signed up for Medicaid and now am able to feel confident that there is a safety net in place when I need one.
Besides being a patient at the clinics, I am also a member of the Promise Healthcare Board. In this position, I have been excited and honored to help Promise in pursuing our goals, extending our reach to fulfill the promise in our name. Frances Nelson itself still has the capacity to accept more individuals and families who are looking for a medical home. In addition to the services offered on site at Frances Nelson and Smile Healthy, we now provide care at the Community Resource Center at Presence, we have a mobile unit for some dental services, and more. We have taken on collaborations with organizations big and small, some of which include: Carle, Presence, the University of Illinois, Avicena, Community Elements, and Parkland. All of these connections enhance our ability to better meet the broad health needs in our community.
I can say with no reservations that, if you or someone you know is in need of a medical/health home, Frances Nelson will be there for you!
Spanish-speaking staff and volunteers are available to assist our Spanish-speaking patients.