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Health, Science, Environment

Mercy Clinic, Youth Center To Bring Ferguson Needed Services

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Mercy Health
An artist's rendering shows the planned development on West Florissant in Ferguson. A Mercy community clinic is a planned anchor for the development that will include a grocery store and youth center.

Mercy Health will soon begin construction on a clinic in Ferguson that will provide medical and mental health care to residents in north St. Louis County.

The 5,500-square-foot health center will be an anchor of a planned development on West Florissant Avenue that includes a grocery store and youth center.

Doctors at the community health center will provide family medicine, mental health care and obstetrics and gynecological services. The clinic also will help people sign up for health insurance and receive food assistance. It's scheduled to open next summer.

Community leaders hope the development will revitalize a part of the city.

“In order to get resources, we really need to go outside our neighborhood,” said LaTasha Brown, president of the Southeast Ferguson Community Association. “The resources are not even, and maybe this is a chance to bring some type of balance.”

While there are several apartment complexes along West Florissant, there aren’t many services for the people who live there, she said.

“Imagine living in a community that has five apartment complexes, and the only store you have is a Family Dollar store and two liquor stores and a couple of beauty suppliers in between,” Brown said. “Other resources need to give us some kind of balance.”

After a Ferguson police officer killed Michael Brown in 2015, and the uprisings that followed, many nonprofits flooded the area with plans to revitalize the community, Brown said. Despite that initial interest, many of those plans fell through.

The clinic is part of a large development planned by the nonprofit Health & Homes, an organization run by Mercy Vice President Donn Sorensen and other local business leaders.

Mercy worked with Brown and other community leaders to decide which services to offer at the clinic, said Tesh Jewell, vice president of adult primary care at Mercy.

“We’ve been able to see the clinic model itself be morphed in a way we believe will be better designed than if we had done it by ourselves,” she said.

For example, neighbors came up with the idea for the clinic’s nutritional center, where people can get short-term food assistance and take cooking classes.

Some Ferguson residents and business owners criticized the plans for the clinic late last year after Tru Kellman, the founder of local maternal health and midwifery clinic Jamaa Birth Village, accused Mercy leaders of stealing business and reneging on an existing agreement that would direct midwifery care in Ferguson to her center.

Mercy leaders apologized to Kellman and announced that while the new clinic would offer OB-GYN services, it would not offer midwifery care.

Mercy and Jamaa are still discussing how to best work together to provide health care to pregnant people in Ferguson, Kellman said.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

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