By Andy Meek
Christ Community Health Services CEO Shantelle Leatherwood has checked off one of the major items on her immediate to-do list that confronted her upon taking the top job earlier this year.
The organization – which has a collection of health centers and provides care for the uninsured, among other services – earned a perfect score on a major audit in recent weeks that it’s required to undergo every three years. That perfect score puts CCHS in the top 1 percent of similar organizations – federally qualified health centers, of which there are about 1,500.
CCHS became a federally qualified health center in 2002, designated by the U.S. Bureau of Primary Care.
“With the program, they give us grant funds to serve the uninsured, and they give us funds to expand and add clinics and renovate clinics so we can serve more uninsured individuals in our community,” Leatherwood said. “Along with that designation, they have program requirements. They cover everything from the composition of your board to the oversight of the board to service delivery, clinical quality, financial management, budgeting, contracting relationships – it really covers the gamut. And they really scrutinize the discount programs you have in place for uninsured individuals.”
Representatives came down and were on site at CCHS in mid-September. Three reviewers spent three days looking at documents and talking to staff, focused on governance, administration, finances and clinical quality.
And CCHS came away from that visit with a perfect score.
“So we’re shouting praises over here,” Leatherwood said. “It was a lot of work, and we achieved one of the major goals I had for this year.”
There’s still, of course, plenty more she wants to see the organization achieve.
For one thing, CCHS serves about 60,000 people a year. Leatherwood wants to see that climb to between 63,000 and 68,000 by the end of this year (“a big goal for us”).
CCHS is also working on a strategic plan and wants to add more social services and wellness services to the suite of care it currently offers, so it’s working on a roadmap that spells out how to get to that point.
The most recent CCHS annual report, from 2016, shows how acute the needs are that the organization targets to address. “Our neighborhood centers are strategically located in some of Memphis’ most underserved areas - Binghampton, Orange Mound, Frayser, Hickory Hill, South Memphis and Raleigh,” it reads.
“Raleigh, for example, had 43,000 people with only four primary care physicians until we located our newest center there.”
CCHS serves its 60,000 patients a year through 185,000 encounters. It also serves more than 23,000 uninsured people.
Its complement of care includes offering medical, dental, behavioral health and pharmacy services at most of its locations. It has six health centers, a women’s health center and a mobile van for the homeless, and it provides prenatal, labor and delivery care, in addition to spiritual health counseling with its facilities.
“I’ve been here for 18 years,” said Leatherwood, who started at CCHS as an administrative assistant. “I’m very passionate about health care for the poor, for those who lack resources, and I was driven by my faith to actually be in an organization that is really faith-based.
“Our vision is big. We’re committed to the community, and we want to expand what we’re doing and strengthen our reach in the community.”