The diagnosis was almost too much for Ester Gallegos to bear.
At 12 years old, her daughter needed brain surgery. The thought alone petrified her mother. Combined with the fact that Gallegos had no health insurance, the ordeal was emotionally paralyzing.
Fortunately, she made her way to a neighborhood medical clinic, Covenant Community Care in Southwest Detroit.
“I tell people, when I came through those doors I had my head down,” says Gallegos. “I didn’t know where to go.”
But it wasn’t long before Gallegos decided she’d visited the right place. While Covenant’s Michigan Avenue facility was a far cry from resembling a neurosurgery hospital, Gallegos was immediately received with compassion, and what followed were vital referrals that might have ultimately saved her daughter’s life.
Stories like Gallegos’ aren’t so rare among patients who’ve been treated at Covenant, at 5716 Michigan Ave., which also has clinics at 18917 Joy Road, on Detroit’s east side at 20901 Moross, and in Royal Oak. Founded out of the late Dr. Kathy Kleinert’s metro Detroit private practice, Covenant incorporates Christian service principles with treatment for the homeless, low-income, and uninsured.
“We’re a welcoming place. We’re available to you,” says CEO Paul Propson. “This is the place where you open the door and get connected to what you need.”
Perhaps the only faith-based clinic in Michigan, Gallegos says she was grateful staff members prayed with her during that first anxious visit.
“I was scared,” she recalls.
Now a staff member herself, Gallegos greets patients from a receptionist desk in the bright, spacious lobby of the Michigan Avenue clinic. Today, her daughter, 17, still suffers from seizures, but her health has dramatically improved.
Bound by a commitment to serve patients regardless of their ability to pay, Covenant clinics treat about 20,000 patients annually, with about half frequenting the Southwest Detroit location, Propson says. Dental visits, including fillings and exams, cost as little as $40, “and if you don’t have it, we’re gonna take care of you anyway,” adds the CEO.
Throughout the contemporary, modernly equipped facility, complete with an on-site pharmacy, are artwork and scriptures that remind visitors of a Christian mission to heal the community, which Propson leads. As his staff talks with visitors about services offered through Covenant, he spots a family outside on Michigan Avenue, waiting for a bus. He trots down the stairs through a set of glass doors.
“Kids got a good doctor?” he asks the mom. “You know we have dental care here, too?”
Propson’s evangelistic devotion is reflected throughout much of the organization. Dale Batten, of Restoration Tradesmen, donated an estimated six figures’ worth of renovation work toward the Michigan clinic before its 2011 opening, and many of the medical staff’s hours are voluntary, administrators say.
Apart from common ailments, Covenant has helped make successful treatment referrals for everything from alcoholism to cancer.
“That’s what we mean by ‘seeking’,” says Samuel Young, development director. “We go out and find people who need the help.”
Ideally, Covenant’s staff will one day include case workers who provide follow-up care and maintain communication with the community, Young adds. For now, the program staff and administrators are eager, like preachers of a healthcare gospel, to spread the word, in hopes that more patients discover them.
“Real healing, real healthcare,” says Young, “comes through relationships.”