LEGACY OF HOPE
By Patricia Gaffney, Ed.D.
Pursue health and wellness, count on medical intervention — the pandemic leaves us grateful when those options are open to us. But what if we lacked access to nutritious food, healthful recreation and preventive care? If your part of the city got labeled a food or medical desert, how would you fight that?
A woman who grew up in the Fair Park area and became a dentist wants to transform the former Forest Avenue Hospital building into a center with office spaces for medical professionals. At dinner with friends in 2016, Dr. Michelle Morgan floated the idea she would later pitch to investors through The Real Estate Council (TREC):
1. Create a destination offering clinical care to South Dallas. 2. Reuse a space built in the sixties to give Black physicians a place to practice. 3. Offer South Dallas residents a medical home.
The friends trusted Dr. Morgan with seed funds they contributed. The site at 2516 Martin Luther King Boulevard got purchased by Vector Studies, LLC. TREC named the project one of its top three in 2018. With that came some recognition, but not the funding needed to launch Morgan’s dream.
Medical providers concur that the best recipe for public health includes prevention and a “medical home” for every patient. The best models include “head-to-toe” service, according to Joyce Tapley, CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Clinic. Situated in the same Forest Neighborhood as the proposed clinic, it offers family/general medicine, behavioral and dental care, and more. As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), it attracts “patients from all over,” and tries to partner with nearby clinics, both public — like Parkland — and private. Experts agree that everyone saves when patients can choose a clinic visit over an emergency room.
The center Dr. Morgan proposes could be one of those private collaborators. Morgan has commitments from service providers in urgent care, psychiatry, dentistry, pharmacy and schools for training medical and dental assistants. She watches the former Forest Avenue Hospital building sit waiting for relaunch, under the community name Legacy of Hope Health and Wellness Center. Since its purchase, donors have contributed $2,000 toward the $1.2 million needed to open the center’s doors to the Fair Park area community.
Texas State Senator Nathan Johnson announced to a bipartisan audience Oct. 22 the bill he proposes to file, Live Well Texas, in advance of Texas’ 87th Legislature (Jan. 12-May 31, 2021). Texans can help educate legislators by articulating collaborative opportunities and stories from our communities. The bill would allow Texas to receive its proportional share of federal Medicaid funding in exchange for a contribution to the mix, joining with 38 participating states (visit nashp.org or kff.org).
Health, wellness and intervention; if communities have access to them, everyone thrives. As the COVID-19 pandemic challenges citizens to take charge of their health, people also need to educate themselves, ask questions and listen to how they can help others. Readers can learn more about the Legacy of Hope Health and Wellness Center and find out how to donate at the gofundme.com site organized by Dr. Edythe Michelle Morgan.