Neighborhood Wellness Centers seek to end healthcare disparities in Detroit, Flint

If you think going to church is only for your spiritual well-being think again.

On Tuesday several state leaders left Lansing to take a tour of one of the 22 Neighborhood Wellness Centers.

The centers offer preventative health care services in a non-traditional medical care setting. Many of those spaces are located  in churches like the one at Vernon Chapel A.M.E. Church in Detroit.

"Whether or not, it’s a health injustice, or whether or not a racial inequality or whatever it is, we always try to step up those necessary services and fill in the gap," said Rev. Sharinese Jackson, Vernon Chapel A.M.E. Church.

These centers offer services from diabetes screenings to Covid and flu testing. There’s also crisis support which includes warming and cooling centers.

"It means people have access to healthcare where they live - which is so important when we talk about equity and health outcomes," said Elizabeth Hertel. "People need the support of clinicians near by and that’s what this offers."

The goal of the free centers is to break down barriers to healthcare and erase healthcare disparities. The centers are primarily located in urban neighborhoods in Detroit and Flint.

"Knowing that is an available service and that is free to me and just for being in the community, I can take advantage of it," said Justin Bunkley. "I was eager to give it a try."

Officials say these wellness centers are a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"These were short-term problem solvers to make sure we had access sites for testing," Hertel said. "We have just continued expanding on those, and we have so many available now it’s really exciting."

The centers are being supported through a $17 million investment in the fiscal year 2024 budget.

"People should feel free to come here, take advantage of the services available to you right down the street,"Hertel said. "Talk to your community health workers and tell us how we can work to improve these services for everyone in the community."