TUPELO – Inspired by mission work, a new charity medical clinic aims to reach out to people in Northeast Mississippi.
“There are hundreds of people who can’t afford medical care,” said gastroentrologist Dr. Joe Bailey, who has been working to start the clinic in Tupelo over the past 18 months, after years of making mission trips to Mexico. “They are all around us.”
The Tree of Life/Abrol de la Vida will begin seeing patients the third Saturday of the month, starting Jan 16.
Tupelo endocrinologist Dr. Mark Shepherd, who is one of the clinic’s board members, has donated the use of his building at 670 Crossover Road for the Saturday clinic.
Other board members include Carley Lovorn of Oxford, the former director of El Centro in Tupelo, and the Rev. Tom Lalor and Elquin Gonzalez of St. James Catholic Church
The clinic takes its name from the Abrol de la Vida hospice in Mexico, where Bailey visited during his mission trips for years. The hospice is the same one that inspired the creation of Sanctuary Hospice House in Tupelo.
“We can certainly relieve some pain and suffering and maybe help save some lives,” Bailey said.
The clinic will start very simply with the help of medical and lay volunteers, and there will be no charge. The clinic will have translators, but very basic services.
“We’re going to provide medications as far as we can,” Bailey said.
Gilmore Memorial Hospital in Amory, where Bailey practices, is providing the clinic with $2,000 in medications to help.
With the volunteer assistance of Tupelo attorney Payne Atkinson, the organization received its nonprofit status.
The Tree of Life Clinic isn’t designed to compete with other medical charities such as Antone Tannehill Good Samaritan Free Clinic or CATCH Kids, but to reach people who don’t qualify or don’t know how to access those services, Bailey said.
The Good Samaritan Free Clinic focuses its efforts on adult Lee County residents who are working but don’t earn enough to buy health insurance.
CATCH Kids, which has community- and school-based clinics in Lee, Chickasaw and Pontotoc counties, sees only those under 18.
The Tree of Life Clinic will have no income or residency guidelines.
“This is an everyman’s clinic,” Bailey said. “But the need is greater in the Hispanic community” where few have insurance and many don’t qualify for other programs.
The need and interest in accessible, reliable health care are significant. When El Centro would hold health fairs, the response was huge, Lovorn said.
“The language barrier is always an issue. People can feel intimidated and nervous,” Lovorn said. “We want folks to be comfortable.”
Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal