I care deeply about the needs of the community, particularly the needs of those facing physical or socioeconomic disadvantages. However, municipal government is not always best suited to provide meaningful help to these individuals.
Instead, throughout our city there are many non-profit organizations, faith based groups, and churches who provide loving care and service to these community members. The city can and should do more to provide an environment in which these private groups can thrive. City hall can use its loud voice to promote and recognize the achievements and impacts of these groups. Invariably, the one thing that all these groups share is their reliance on volunteers. By systematically celebrating these organizations, including faith based organizations, the city can encourage new armies of volunteers to join the effort to make a Fayetteville neighbor's life better.
A beautiful example of what creative non-profits can do, is Fayetteville's own Rockin' Baker. The Rockin' Baker (located in Uptown Fayetteville) bakes and sells delicious breads (wholesale and retail). It supports the neuro-diverse community by employing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and teaching "trade skills, soft skills, and career skills, instilling knowledge and confidence for a lifetime." I have a vision that Fayetteville becomes an even better support system for more Rockin' Baker type businesses (https://www.rockinbaker.org).
Hopefully soon, there will be an empty old police headquarter building downtown. Now is the time to study how that city owned resource can be used to help caregiving organizations. One such idea would be a center for non-profits, analogous to the existing facility in Rogers in the old Mercy hospital building. Such a use would further foster an ecosystem in which volunteer based organizations could have low or no cost infrastructure to assist them in meeting community needs.
It is estimated there are 251 individuals experiencing homelessness in Fayetteville alone which makes up almost 75% of cases in Northwest Arkansas. Even with programs like Medicaid and Community Health Centers, many individuals experiencing homelessness have decreased access to health care which results in poor health outcomes and decreased quality of life. Barriers such as lack of or limited insurance, high out-of-pocket costs, scheduling issues, decreased access to transportation, and feelings of marginalization or discrimination by past medical providers increase medical isolation.
In order to increase healthcare access to individuals experiencing homelessness, there needs to be a way to deliver healthcare services at reduced or no cost, at convenient times and locations, with empathetic, culturally competent providers. One of the ways in which these goals can be met is through the use of student-led clinics which were first developed in the United States during the late 1960s as an alternative method of providing healthcare services to address problems with access. With this service delivery model, patients are treated by student clinicians under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.
The use of this service delivery model offers a threefold benefit for patients, students, and the community. Patients are benefited through increased access to affordable healthcare while students are provided the opportunity to develop and practice hands on skills and clinical reasoning. The benefits provided to the community include filling a need for services for individuals who have no insurance, providing a place to refer uninsured patients or those with exhausted benefits, and offering screenings and healthcare education with a focus on preventative care. Pursuing a three-way partnership between the city of Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas, and the 7hills Homeless Center would be the perfect way to incorporate this type of service delivery model.