Oxford church to tithe for health care


By Lucy Schultze

The Oxford Eagle

Working people in the Oxford area without health insurance will soon have access to medical aid, thanks in part to Oxford-University United Methodist  Church.


The church supports the new Oxford Medical Ministries Clinic in many ways, including making the clinic part of the church’s $3 million capital campaign. Oxford-University UMC has pledged to tithe 10 percent to the clinic. The campaign will pay off debt on O-U’s new Activities Center and other renovations.

“We need to always remember that the mission of the church is a lot more than bricks and mortar,” said Dennis Tosh, co-chairman of the church’s “God’s Mission – Our Challenge” campaign.


Including a mission component in a capital campaign was a first for the church. Senior pastor Warren Black, a clinic board member, said he was both surprised and delighted when he was approached by church members with the idea of tithing to the clinic.


“The ministry of Jesus was primarily devoted to healing the minds, bodies, spirits and relationships of people,” Black said. “What better way to reach out to those around us.”


Meanwhile, the Oxford community has given $1.5 million to a campaign to establish an endowment for the clinic, said Dr. Jim Rayner, who leads the campaign.


“Something as important as this clinic is to the community needs to be in a position where it’s not always begging for money to pay the overhead for the next 60 days,” said Rayner, who is also a member of O-U UMC. “It needs to be endowed so it will never run the risk of having to close the doors.”


Toward the goal of raising several million dollars over the next year, Rayner has begun making visits to people in town in an effort to secure large donations in stocks, cash and property. He is working closely in the effort with fellow retired physician Dr. Keith Mansel, president of the board for the clinic’s parent organization, Health Services In-Action Inc.


Sharing the benefit

Gifts have included three pieces of property each valued at more than $100,000, Rayner said. The emphasis on inviting gifts of property and stocks comes as the value of land in and around Oxford has risen steeply over the past several years.


“My feeling is that people in this community have enjoyed an enormous appreciation of their property,” Rayner said. “The people who we will serve have not enjoyed this appreciation.”


With a first-year budget of more than $250,000 – likely to rise as the clinic’s services grow – the operation is not one that can be run “with spaghetti suppers and annual fundraisers,” Rayner said.


Although local physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and pharmacists will be donating their time one evening a week, the clinic is setting out to provide medications without cost to its patients out of a fully stocked, in-house pharmacy.


Filling the gap

The clinic is being built for a specific portion of the Oxford and Lafayette County community – working people in the gap between qualifying for Medicaid and being able to afford health insurance.


Criteria for potential patients include a requirement that they are working but also that they earn no more than 200 percent over the Federal Poverty Guideline limit. The criteria came out of the medical community itself – as the population that local healthcare professionals were most eager to give of their time and energy to serve.


The clinic is intended as a place to go before one gets sick, to receive the routine care that can keep complications from conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure at bay.


With a site and building off Mississippi 7 South donated by Sean Carothers and Brownie Crawford, construction on the 3,400-square-foot clinic began in the early summer and is nearly complete.


The building includes separate front rooms for patient reception and a business office, with a full pharmacy, triage stations, a small lab, a conference room and four spacious exam rooms. When it opens, the facility will keep regular weekday office hours for client screening, with the doctors and other medical staff coming in on Tuesday evenings to run the clinic itself.


For Lynn Sloan, executive director of the clinic, the possibilities for the space go far beyond those weekly clinic sessions – from health-education seminars to adult GED classes.


“It’s a community building and we want to make sure more than one aspect of the community has the opportunity to use it,” she said.


This story was adapted from two stories written by Schultze for “The Oxford Eagle” and is used by permission.