(Southaven, MS) Since its start 12 years ago, the DeSoto County Health And Wellness Center has seen to the health care needs of about 35,000 people.
For years, Kayla Blackburn has depended on the DeSoto Health & Wellness Center for her doctor visits.
”I can’t afford health insurance right now. I’m a full-time student, Mom in nursing school, so being able to come here, somebody who doesn’t get sick very often, it’s more beneficial for me to pay.”
But she found out Tuesday, the health center, which is DeSoto County’s version of the Memphis Church Health Center, will close April 30th.
”It’s always been difficult to have enough money to keep it open and we’ve depended on grants and donations and fundraisers and it just become more and more difficult,” said Billie Wilhite of the DeSoto Health & Wellness Center.
The clinic started in 2002 when Valeria Robertson, a Mississippi lawmaker and wife of a doctor, saw too many people going without a doctor’s care.
She won accolades across Mississippi for her efforts.
The DeSoto Health & Wellness Center certainly isn’t closing for lack of need.
In the short time we spent there, we saw nearly a dozen people walk in and out.
But unlike the Church Health Center, DeSoto couldn’t get doctors to volunteer.
The changing insurance landscape didn’t help, and money got harder and harder to raise, bringing board members to the painful decision to close.
”I’m sorry it couldn’t be what we wanted it to be. I’m gonna miss a lot of these patients because we had them a long time,” said Wilhite.
Northeast Mississippi healthcare, a financially stronger group, will come in to fill the need with a new office on Airways.
But patients like Blackburn will miss DeSoto’s own volunteer clinic.
”It upsets me a little bit. Hopefully the new office will work with the income-based, so we shall see.”
Patients can have their records transferred to the new organization, or to a doctor of their choice.