Today, in observance of Veterans Day and in keeping with the theme of Celebrating Health Centers: Home of America’s Health Care Heroes, we recognize and honor a special group of heroes— our veterans. Community Health Centers provide care to more than 350,000 veterans across the country, many of whom would otherwise not have access to care. In this blog, we shine the spotlight on Matagorda Episcopal Health Outreach Program (MEHOP) in Bay City, Texas, an FQHC that recently joined forces with the U.S. Army on the Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) Program, which aims to “reconnect America with its Army” and serve those who serve our country.
“The Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) Program is a strategic partnership between the US Army and a cross section of corporations, companies, and public sector agencies. The Program provides America’s youth with an opportunity to serve their country while they prepare for their future. PaYS Partners guarantee Soldiers an interview and possible employment after the Army. This unique Program is part of the Army’s effort to partner with America’s business community and reconnect America with its Army.
The PaYS program is designed to help Soldiers prepare for a career after the Army by connecting them with employers who understand the skills, discipline, and work ethic that military service members bring to a business. Soldiers who participate in the program develop valuable skills and experience, in addition to gaining opportunities for employment. This partnership connection provides a win-win situation for all.”
We recently spoke with Celeste Harrison, CEO and Donna Huitt, Marketing Director/Provider Relations of MEHOP about this collaboration.
NACHC: Tell us a little bit about MEHOP. How many veterans do you serve?
MEHOP: We received our FQHC status in 2009 and have approximately 90 employees and serve 10,000 patients in all facets of primary care. We serve a diverse rural population that spans four counties. At this time, we serve less than 100 veterans; however, the number is always increasing.
NACHC: How did you find out about PaYS and what sparked your interest in partnering with the Army on the program?
MEHOP: MEHOP’s CEO received an email about the program and we pursued becoming a site. Due to our rural location we recognize the importance of expanding our reach to bring awareness of the employment opportunities we provide. Through the Army PaYs Program we have the opportunity to gain highly skilled team members as well as providing our soldiers with employment opportunities after their service.
NACHC: You hosted a kick-off event as part of National Health Center Week to announce and celebrate this new partnership. Tell us more about that.
MEHOP: The event was held at the Bay City Service Center which is, historically, one of only three remaining original USO buildings in the United States today. The event began with a private staff lunch at which time MEHOP Board Members thanked the staff for their dedication to our organization. Each staff members name was read along with their years of service. Going along with the theme for our Health Center Week Celebration each staff member was provided with a camouflage shirt that was embroidered with the MEHOP logo and the American flag stitched on the sleeve as well as an engraved military dog tag that recognized their service.
For the commemorative ceremony, the public, along with elected officials, were invited to attend the event. Members of the 323d “Ft. Sam’s Own” Ft. Sam Houston Army Band provided musical accompaniment. The US Army Color Guard posted our nations flags and a presentation on the Army PaYS program and MEHOP was given to those in attendance. Following the presentations, the official signing commenced followed by a reception that concluded the event.
NACHC: Why are partnerships like this so important not only to health centers, but to the community?
MEHOP: When working in rural environments, especially healthcare, staff recruitment can present challenges. Having viable partnerships such as the US Army, expands on the Health Center’s resources to gain professional, skilled and motivated staff. Communities benefit by being able to receive continued quality care in their rural communities and by their communities being promoted through such partnerships.
NACHC: Do you plan to incorporate this partnership into your overall health center advocacy efforts? And if so, how?
MEHOP: Army PaYS is already part of our advocacy. Many who attended the official signing of the partnership had never attended a MEHOP event or had limited knowledge of their local community health center, MEHOP. MEHOP will continue to share the success of the partnership demonstrated by the staff recruited to MEHOP.
To view a video recording of the event, click here to watch on MEHOP’s Facebook page.
Many thanks to MEHOP for sharing this important partnership with us and demonstrating your commitment to serving all members of your community, and, our nation’s veterans. For more information about how your health center or organization can become a PaYS partner, visit https://www.armypays.com/.