Coast health clinic workers weigh in on healthcare debate

By Krystal Allan - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Faith is what's carried Sterling Campbell through the tough times of being homeless and without a job.

As one of the estimated 37 percent of Mississippians without insurance, the Coastal Family Health Center has been his saving grace for quality healthcare.

"It's a big blessing to me, as well as others that's in this situation I am today," Campbell said.

In the backdrop of the national healthcare debate, the center held an open house where affordable coverage and preventative medicine were the topics of the hour.

Karlyn Stephens, one of the founders of the clinic, has been driving the discussion on affordable healthcare since it opened in 1978.

"Then, we were the only industrialized nation without a plan.  Here we are 31 years later and we still have no plan, and services have gotten less accessible," Stephens said.

During National Community Health Care Week, the clinic is offering free screenings and working to get the word out about the services it provides. Executive Director, Joe Dawsey said before any new plan takes shape on the national stage there's a problem that must be addressed with programs already in place.

"Some of the programs have been here for a while and (people are not) taking advantage of them.  I think any type of program in the future would have to address the issues of people understanding and utilizing the programs," Dawsey said.

In particular, Dawsey points to Medicaid as well as CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, where the clinic has run into problems getting eligible children signed up.

When it comes to the national debate, Dawsey doesn't believe people are against the uninsured getting help. He said it's a matter of how the uninsured get the help they need.

During the open house, the clinic also took time out to honor people for their contributions helping the clinic thrive.

Ward 2 Councilman Bill Stallworth and clinic founder Karlyn Stephen were among those recognized for their efforts to support the clinic.

As for where healthcare reform stands right now, there are currently five plans circulating through Congress. The House Energy and Commerce committee did approve a bill designed to overhaul the healthcare system. But since there was no consensus on a bill by either body before the August recess, Congress will revisit the issue in September.

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