TYLER, TX (KLTV) - This year marks a major milestone for an East Texas ministry. Bethesda Health Clinic is celebrating 15 years of caring for the mind, body, and soul.
The clinic, located on West Ferguson Street in downtown Tyler, provides low-cost health care to low-income adults who are uninsured or underinsured.
Many patients come in with simple health concerns, often complicated by life’s burdens.
“[They’ve] just had some tough breaks in their life you know,” said Bethesda CEO Dr. John English. “They’re needing someone who can give them some hope, maybe a little bit of some options.”
Since opening in 2003, the clinic has provided more than 125 thousand patient visits to 11 thousand individuals.
"Some of them have got an incredible faith in their own, you know. As you visit with them. you say, ‘Wow. You’re really having to work and struggle there. How are you doing this?’ They say just, ‘The Lord has blessed me.’”
Patients receive more than a checkup -- Bethesda offers primary medical, dental, and social services, along with the opportunity to meet spiritual needs.
Their medical team and staff are supported by more than 380 volunteers, like Dianne Moore, who helps out every Tuesday.
“In another doctor’s office, most of the time, you don’t get from beginning to end that they have been prayed about and that their welfare is important to the people who are seeing them and caring for them. And that’s that’s huge,” Moore said.
Dr. John English helped open the clinic and has continued serving as CEO and Medical Director. He says every need has been met by the community, with no tax dollars or funding from insurance. More than 25 community organizations assist with funding as well as donating supplies and other services. Other funding comes from the Hangers of Hope thrift stores.
“We have a continued saying that God seems to bring the right people, the right equipment the right thing just at the right time,” English said.
Patients are charged a nominal fee for the services.
“They pay a little bit just as if they were on an insurance plan or an HMO or something like that. It’s a very small cost, probably a tenth of the cost of what they might spend if they had insurance."
According to its website, Bethesda provides evaluation for gastroenterology, orthopedics, podiatry, nephrology, endocrinology, podiatry, gynecology, and general surgery, and off-site specialty referrals for ophthalmology, rheumatology, pulmonary, cardiology, neurology, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.
“About a third of our income comes from our patient fees,” English said. “So they contribute that and then they get what we think is top quality care medically. We always challenge to figure out emotionally and spiritually the top quality we can give there as well. So one of the blessings is not having any kind of outside funding like from insurance or government funding. We have a little bit more freedom to visit with folks.”
The need for a community clinic in East Texas is only increasing. 4,500 patients were served in 2017.
Moore and her husband, who is a doctor, also help out at the all-volunteer Saturday clinic.
“One of the last things that Christ said to his disciples was he commanded them to love one another. Fast-forward 2,000 years and now I’m his disciple. As a believer I am commanded to love people.”
Moore enters information and case files into a computer system, while her husband sees patients who otherwise may rely on emergency rooms for primary care. She says it’s a labor of love.
“Christ said love. And because I am understanding in a more deep way what love means, I think that my spiritual journey has been empowered.”
Inspired by the power of prayer, this care goes beyond teeth cleanings or treating a cold. Dr. English says ministering to mental health needs is just as important.
“We’ve really put an emphasis towards some mental health evaluations. [There is] a lot of depression and anxiety out there. Our personal belief is that under a lot of that depression, anxiety, stresses, and other things, are a lot of spiritual battles going on as well.”
An on-site chapel allows staff and volunteers to minister to patients spiritually.
Every patient visit is an opportunity to bring life to the clinic’s name. Bethesda means, ‘a house of mercy.’
When staff members achieve that mission, those small victories or ‘God moments,’ as English calls them, are celebrated.
"It’s been kind of cool. We’ve been looking for those and seeing them. We always used to talk about the hand print of God was all over the building.”
From humble beginnings outreach project of First Baptist Church, this ministry has grown with the support of 40 congregations and many community partners.
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