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Staff photo by Wyatt Massey / Purpose Point Community Health opened its doors for low-income and uninsured residents this fall. The clinic is pictured here on Dec. 7, 2020.

Purpose Point Community Resource Center, a nonprofit founded by Mt. Canaan Baptist Church, opened its health clinic this fall and is accepting low-income and uninsured patients.

The Purpose Point Community Health clinic offers primary care and chronic disease management, focusing efforts on boosting health in the East Chattanooga neighborhoods surrounding it.

Katherlyn Geter, executive director for Purpose Point Community Resource Center, said the clinic's opening this fall was the culmination of around three years of planning. The organization is modeled after Church Health, a similar church-supported clinic in Memphis. Geter, who serves as the District 5 county commissioner, has more than two decades of experience in social work and health care.

The clinic's location on Chamberlain Avenue is in the neighborhood it seeks to serve, which offers an advantage, Geter said, since many local residents avoid or cannot afford consistent health care on top of existing transportation barriers.

"A lot of people, they have trauma and fear when you say you have to go see this doctor at a hospital, so we hope that they can have some comfort that it is in their community," she said. "It's not in a traditional setting because it is in a church. So we hope that that relieves a lot of the typical health care stigma and trauma that a lot of folks feel when they're seeking care."

The clinic, converted from the church's old prayer room, features three exam rooms and another office for patients to connect with area resources. Dr. Adrien Strickland will serve as the clinic's medical director, with Dr. Candie Richardson as its medical champion.

Last year, the Hamilton County Health Department released its "Picture of Our Health" report, which found that Black residents were more likely than white residents to suffer from chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes. The 37406 ZIP Code where the clinic is located ranks 575th out of Tennessee's 600 ZIP Codes for negative outcomes, as analyzed by Explore TNHealth.

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Staff photo by Wyatt Massey / Katherlyn Geter, executive director for Purpose Point Community Resource Center, stands on Dec. 7, 2020, in the hallway leading to the nonprofit's health clinic that opened this fall.

Dr. Ternae Jordan Sr., senior pastor of Mt. Canaan Baptist Church, said improving an individual's health is the foundation for improving other parts of their lives. The mission of the church, regardless of denomination or race, should be to serve the community and the clinic in a way to have an immediate impact on a local level, he said.

"We believe we need to be in areas where the greatest needs are," Jordan said. "A lot of times the church spends a lot of time going to Africa, Nicaragua, Honduras and those areas and we fly over the areas that are right outside our front door."

Purpose Point will partner with other medical providers to refer out patients in need of care for acute or traumatic injuries. The clinic hopes to provide speciality care on site, occasionally by bringing specialists to the church, Geter said.

Licensed social workers will provide clients with other assistance and clinic staff will help those who qualify get free or reduced-cost medications. People who need the medications and otherwise qualify can be dissuaded due to the large amount of paperwork necessary to receive the help or because they are unfamiliar navigating the health care system, Geter said. Having these types of resources on site will help reduce barriers to care, she said.

"If you don't understand all that, then you as a person can feel overwhelmed and be like, 'You know what, I won't take the medication.' And that's what we see too often," Geter said.

Geter and other clinic staff plan to canvas the neighborhood with information about the clinic, starting in Glass Farms and expanding to Bushtown and other surrounding neighborhoods. The clinic is open Saturdays and currently serves around 10 patients, Geter said, though the clinic can serve even more people in connecting them to area resources when not providing direct medical care.

To be eligible for the clinic, patients must be between 18 and 64, uninsured and ineligible for government insurance programs and at or below 200% of the federal poverty line.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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