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#OTGYpsi: Packard Health partnering to provide preventative health care in West Willow neighborhood


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: Packard Health to open medical clinic in Ypsi Township's West Willow neighborhood

Packard Health

Packard Health Contact Info

Healthy Together West Willow

University of Michigan School of Nursing

New West Willow Neighborhood Association

New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church


Cathy Shafran: You are listening to 89.1 WEMU. I'm Cathy Shafran, and this is On the Ground Ypsi. It's a program intended to bring you the stories of the Ypsilanti community. We bring you On the Ground Ypsi in partnership with the reporting team at Concentrate Media. And today, our focus is on some new health care services being brought to an underserved area of Ypsilanti Township. Today, I'm joined by Concentrate Media reporter Rylee Barnsdale, whose online site is reporting this week on a partnership with Packard Health, University of Michigan Nursing School, and a local church that will soon bring a health care clinic into the West Willow neighborhood. Rylee, thanks so much for being here.

Rylee Barnsdale: Thanks, Cathy.

Cathy Shafran: Can you tell me a little bit more about the Concentrate Media article written by Sarah Rigg this week?

Rylee Barnsdale: For folks living in the West Willow area, some options for medical treatment, including preventative treatment, can be maybe 10 minutes away by car. If you're relying on public transportation, some of those options can be 20 minutes, 30 minutes, maybe even an hour away. And in some cases, there isn't even a route--a bus route--that will take you from West Willow to, say, an urgent care depending on where you're going. And the transportation aspect doesn't take into account what kind of insurance you have, if you have it at all. And I'm sure, as you're probably aware, health care can be pretty darn expensive even when you do have insurance. Sarah's story details how the satellite location for Ypsi's Packard Health is tackling those issues by both providing care to patients regardless of their insurance status, as well as being central to the West Willow neighborhood.

Cathy Shafran: So, how is this all being coordinated? How's it coming together?

Rylee Barnsdale: So, this project is actually five years in the making. And, it's really the work of several community partners all coming together to make health care more accessible to this neighborhood. So, not only do we have Packard Health providing the expertise and the staff, we also have the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church offering the space, as well as partnerships with University of Michigan School of Nursing, the New West Willow Neighborhood Association, and a nonprofit based in West Willow called Healthy Together West Willow, which is focusing on providing health care for older adults in the neighborhood. So, it's a huge effort with a lot of players making it possible.

Cathy Shafran: And what will it look like?

Rylee Barnsdale: So, as of right now, the Packard Health West Willow Facility will be open one day a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the expectation of starting to see patients in early June. There are plans in the future to expand those hours, and they'll be seeing patients from age 12 and up and, again, you know, seeing patients regardless of their insurance status and offering a sliding pay scale to increase accessibility even further.

Cathy Shafran: Okay. Well, in the report in Concentrate Media this week, Sarah Rigg talked extensively with those involved in the partnership, including representatives of Packard Health. And we have two of those representatives with us today. Becca Fleming is joining us by phone and is the Director of Community Health Initiatives at Packard Health. Welcome, Becca.

Becca Fleming: Thank you.

Cathy Shafran: And we're also joined by Dr. Raymond Rion, the executive director of Packard Health. He's in the studio with us now. Thanks so much for being with us, Dr. Rion

Dr. Raymond Rion: Thank you. My pleasure.

Cathy Shafran: So, I know in the past, you've said that Packard Health's mission has always been trying to meet people where they are. I'm assuming that you see this move as a natural extension of that mission.

Dr. Raymond Rion: It is. This is just another extension to try to make our services more accessible to folks who, for whatever reason, can't access the health care system. Maybe like I can.

Cathy Shafran:Why the West Willow area now?

Dr. Raymond Rion: The health disparities—and now I'm talking about longevity, life expectancy, the disparities in our county—are among the worst of any county in the country. Last I looked, we were in the top ten, and that's in Washtenaw County. There's a nine-year difference in life expectancy between sides of the county, which I find frankly outrageous. And some of the areas that have the lowest life expectancy are in West Willow. It has always been one of the most vulnerable populations in communities in in the county. So, when this opportunity that was largely developed early on by the nursing school and Patricia Tillman-Meakins, who really led the development, Rebecca in Packard Health and I followed along happily.

Cathy Shafran: And, Becca, I know that Packard Health has always been focused on a safety net as a medical center where there's a sliding fee scale that ensures people without insurance can get the health care. Was that a motivating factor when you thought about moving into the West Willow neighborhood?

Becca Fleming: Yeah. Thank you, Cathy. That's a great question. Yes, absolutely. I think, you know, in addition to the West Willow neighborhood, having the lowest life expectancy in the county, there are also no full-service grocery stores, there's no pharmacies, right? So, we have a population that not only doesn't have regular access to a health care facility, but also, you know, are challenged to kind of find other resources in their community as well that ultimately affects their overall health and quality of life. So, to be able to reach out to this population and offer, you know, such a multitude of services is a priority of Packard. Yes.

Cathy Shafran: Can you tell me, Becca, about what the new clinic will look like once it opens up in June?

Becca Fleming: We will be able to offer a multitude of health services. So, you know, chronic disease management, we'll be able to do lab services, including blood draws, and then also address some more acute issues that the population may have as well. So, it really will be a full-service clinic. And, you know, should there be other services that a patient might present with, we would then be able to refer them on to one of our other clinics in the area.

Cathy Shafran: Our On the Ground Ypsi conversation with growing health care in Ypsilanti Township's West Willow Neighborhood continues on 89.1 WEMU with Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale and Dr. Raymond Rion and Becca Fleming from Packard Health. I'm trying to get a picture of what somebody would come to this clinic for. Will there be a doctor there? Just nurses staffing it? So, what type of health care would I want to come to the clinic for?

Becca Fleming: So, we will have, on each clinic day, a medical assistant onsite who will help with the check-in process and get folks registered and that sort of thing. And then, our nurse practitioner, Patti Tillman-Meakins, will be actually providing the care to clients. So, again, we actually have a fairly large population of patients in the community right now who are established with Packard. So, this may act as another resource for them should they not be able to get to the regular clinic. They could certainly, you know, see Patti as kind of a go-between. And then, for clients who may not have a primary care provider, we would love to be that for them and offer that service. So, they may come for diabetes care or hypertension or blood pressure check, you know, maybe a lab draw. So, we will also offer women services, preventative services, etc. It is not an acute care office. Again, we do not turn away clients, but our goal would be to really establish, you know, a working partnership and a relationship with patients. So. Should they come and have a sore throat, if they didn't have a primary care provider, we would certainly, you know, treat the sore throat, but then also hopefully connect them with us and be able to provide their care moving forward.

Dr. Raymond Rion: The long-term goal is really to engage with people about their health. So, you know, if somebody is really, really sick, we're going to probably send them to the emergency room. But, again, we would not know that till we actually saw them. What we are trying to do is really to make it easier for people who may struggle to engage with the health care system. So, somebody who doesn't have good transportation, who finds the busses that rarely go, they're hard to navigate, maybe because they have walking issues. You know, we have a lot of patients actually walk to our facilities.

Cathy Shafran: How will people become aware of this? Should they reach out? Is it something that the community is talking about at this point? Is that something that you know, Becca?

Becca Fleming: So, we are working very closely with the West Willow Neighborhood Association. We've been attending their monthly meetings to spread the word, and there's been fantastic community feedback. I know the church. We have put up fliers kind of all over the community. The church is also spreading the word. So, we're definitely relying a lot on our community partners as well in the Ypsi area to spread the word and encourage use of the clinic. You know, they can call our main Packard number and, you know, we'd be happy to get them scheduled. We will certainly take walk-ins but scheduled preferred.

Cathy Shafran: Dr. Rion, if the vision that you have for this materializes to the way that you would like to see it, what will it look like in future years?

Dr. Raymond Rion: Boy, I would love to see it still in place and enlarged. I do think we have a lot more room in our main office in Ypsilanti. We've got room for a part-time psychiatrist. We have therapists there. We have additional testing that we can do. So, we just have more space a few miles away. So, it's really, to me, there may be people who go there on an ongoing basis. It's really an engagement strategy. Primary care medicine is really about meeting people and engaging people over time. And if there's a group of patients where that's the place if that happens, I think that's fantastic. If they need more complicated services, again, we can provide that three miles away in our other office.

Cathy Shafran: Thank you so much, Dr. Raymond Rion and Becca Fleming from Packard Health Care and Concentrate Media reporter Rylee Barnsdale. Thank you both for joining us--all of you for joining us.

Rylee Barnsdale: Thanks, Cathy.

Becca Fleming: Thank you so much.

Dr. Raymond Rion: Thanks, Cathy.

Cathy Shafran: This has been On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Cathy Shafran, and this is 89.1 WEMU FM, Ypsilanti. It's public radio from Eastern Michigan University and online at WEMU dot org.

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Cathy Shafran was WEMU's afternoon news anchor and local host during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.
Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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