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Ubi Caritas: Vision for a Healthy Community

In 1996 the vision of an Episcopal Health Clinic for the underserved in south Beaumont first came to light. It started with Clark Moore and his concerns about the health needs of the medically underserved in the South Park area of Beaumont 

Moore, a 22 year veteran of non-profit management and fundraising, had no medical background but he had a burning desire to make a difference in the health and well-being of those he perceived as needing someone to speak up for them. So he set about raising awareness about the needs of this community.

When the vision of the clinic was first proposed many local medical providers said it would never work. Many were unsure about whether patients would actually come to the clinic. Others felt that the community would never financially support a medical clinic and that dollars were already committed to other charity endeavors in Beaumont.

In the face of all naysayers, Moore continued to promote the reality of a clinic, encouraging all to move forward saying, "Let's see what happens." People who worked with him at the time have described him as relentless in his efforts to tell others about the dream of "Episcopalians starting a medical mission in south Beaumont."

And that enthusiasm quickly translated into a feasibility study. Moore then convened an initial board of community leaders and involved early stakeholders including the local neighborhood association, elected officials, local church leaders and Lamar University personnel.

He encouraged each member of the board to tell the story to all who would listen and perhaps respond by saying, "we are called to share the vision and then let God work in their lives." Working with the neighborhood association, South Park community members became involved and were empowered to share the vision. In a short time, a sizeable following was promoting the idea of a neighborhood charitable clinic and supporting the cause of equitable access to health care for all people in South Park. 

Out of those initial meetings was born the organization that would go on to become Ubi Caritas. Within six months of undertaking the initial feasibility study Moore had created the structure for the organization, produced a charter, acquired office space in a local Methodist Church, developed grants and enlisted the support of state and local foundations so the organization could purchase and remodel a building to be used as a clinic. One of the first groups Moore approached for support was the St. Luke's Episcopal Health Services Charities. And The Charities openly embraced Moore's vision. 

The first grant The Charities made to Ubi Carritas began was in September 1997 and it was for the construction of a primary health clinic and community wellness/education center for the indigent population of Beaumont. The Charities has continued annual support to Ubi Carritas and has contributed over $1.8 million to developing indigent health care services in Southeast Texas. As the years have unfolded, it is the work done by the clinic that has come to be the most widely known aspect of Ubi Caritas. 

When the clinic opened in 1999 Ubi Caritas was, and still remains, the only primary care medical and dental clinic providing services for the uninsured and underserved in Beaumont. Since opening its doors, the clinic has provided over $5 million in charity and prescription care and 45,069 patient services. Annually the clinic provides health screenings and immunizations to 850 children, and has served 7,800 children since opening. 

Even though Ubi Caritas is known throughout Southeast Texas for the work of the clinic staff, it does more than just treat patients; it also provides health education and literacy programs available nowhere else. In addition to meeting the primary medical needs of patients, the clinic staff teaches a community program providing health education classes to patient clients and community members alike, thus providing opportunities for all stakeholders to participate equally in the call to action to improve overall community health. 

One of Moore's biggest legacies to Ubi Caritas was his talent for collaboration and capacity building. Since the first days of developing the clinic Moore actively sought out partnerships with other organizations. One early collaboration was with Lamar University's Nursing Department, where a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was developed to cover the cost of the Clinic Director and Nurse Practitioner for three years. 

That initial collaboration with Lamar University provided the fledgling Ubi Caritas organization time to develop sufficient resources to cover the staff costs after the grant ended.  

Since that original partnership, over 150 nursing students have rotated through the clinic receiving valuable hands-on education while providing care and assistance to patients.  

Other collaborations have included summer health education for youth with the City Parks Department and health education classes in local housing projects for the elderly with Beaumont Housing Authority. Ubi Caritas is also a key partner in the Sister Katharine Drexel Health Check  which provides health screening, medical, dental, hearing and eye screenings to more than 600 uninsured individuals annually. The clinic was one of the first clinics in the region to offer free flu shots using staff volunteers to take immunizations to Beaumont area churches on Sundays. Since the Sunday immunization program began in 2004, the clinic staff has administered nearly 3,000 immunizations.

Moore's leadership of Ubi Caritas has been central to the success of the clinic. He currently leads a staff of sixteen and he is quick to acknowledge that, "they do all the work." It is indicative of his leadership to give others the credit for their accomplishments. However, the numbers tell how hard Moore worked and speak well of his accomplishments as Executive Director of Ubi Caritas.

From an original budget of $235,000 to the current budget of $990,450 the organization has continued to grow and expand under Moore's guidance and oversight. He also joined other organizations to establish the Golden Triangle Health and Human Services Council thereby creating the structure for public and private providers to meet 4 times a year to discuss and plan for ways to improve access to medical services for uninsured patients.

Because of Moore's innovative vision and forward thinking Ubi Caritas has become one of the first nonprofit medical clinics in the nation to have a fully functional Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system. This system was implemented at a time when only 6.3 percent of nationwide office based clinics had fully functional EMR systems. Through the innovative use of EMR, the clinic is able to provide increased services to patients.  Progressive actions such as this keep Ubi Caritas poised for sustainable growth and continuing positive outcomes.

However, the true testament to Moore's impassioned leadership can be seen in the years since Hurricanes Ike and Rita hit Southeast Texas. Rita and Ike delivered catastrophic destruction to the Beaumont area and beyond and destroyed or hampered many of Ubi Caritas' fundamental services.

Under Moore's leadership the Ubi Caritas board began an optimistic capital improvement plan to raise the needed funds to restore community health services. This plan culminated in the construction of a new medical clinic and the conversion of the original Ubi Caritas clinic building into the first- ever charity dental clinic for the Beaumont community.

The new dental clinic will accept patients from a Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties; an area where a tremendous need exists for dental services for the uninsured and those unable to pay for private dental care. Through Moore's leadership and his unique understanding of Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Hurricane Relief funds, the vision of a new health clinic facility and an adjacent dental services clinic became a reality. Moore was able to leverage $860,000 in federal and state funds into a $1.4 million expansion program.

It was through Moore's efforts that the small South Park neighborhood ministry and clinic grew and expanded into a community-wide health ministry serving all of Beaumont. Now, the Ubi Caritas Episcopal Health Care Clinic ministry is the primary provider of indigent care for the entire city. The vision, leadership and tireless efforts of Moore provide constant reassurance to all that the Ubi Caritas Episcopal Health Ministry is truly a place of healing "where mercy dwells".

The nearly boundless enthusiasm that Moore used to initially get the ball rolling continues to this day. He never misses an opportunity to tell all who will listen about what the Episcopalians are doing in Beaumont's South Park neighborhood and to remind people that everyone deserves access to quality and affordable medical care.

Through research-informed grantmaking to Texas nonprofits, St. Luke's Episcopal Health Charities, a separate component of St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System, improves community health and reduces health disparities.  Our Center for Community-Based Research is dedicated to community-based participatory research practices that foster informed action, collaboration and empowerment for the medically underserved and other vulnerable populations.

© 2012  St. Luke's Episcopal Health Charities