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“It’s not just a service, it’s a relationship.”

After finishing a meeting with a client, Phil joined our group and immediately began to tell us his experiences with health and his work at Ministry with Community. Phil, a social worker who has previously worked as a professor, with Child Protective Services, Home Services, and at Department of Human Services, before coming to Ministry with Community, comes with an experienced perspective.

Phil tells us what he sees as the biggest barrier to access to health care: misinformation. He describes confusion not only among consumers, but among those, such as himself and Mike, who are attempting to enroll others. Their first meeting with Enroll Kalamazoo finally helped them to understand and inform others about health care. Phil said the first meeting with the Enroll Kalamazoo coalition was confusing, as it was hard to understand exactly what its purpose was going to be in the community. As more people collaborated, the process became more efficient, particularly because of organizers like Amy Terry.

 Phil describes, with great pain and compassion in his voice, that the individuals without health care are “warehoused”, as year to year they go through pain that is never fully healed.  While the local clinic’s social worker attempts to find pro bono help for members of the Ministry community, many are never able to receive the full care they need. Phil asserts many are in too much pain to work, which often leads people to substance abuse problems out of suffering and discouragement.

 Phil says that many people are discouraged from signing up for insurance sometimes due to illiteracy, but often because they have been treated over and over again “like a non-entity.” Those individuals are simply in need of encouragement and support, and so Phil and those at Ministry want to create a relationship with them and show support through this process.

With the efforts by Ministry to enroll the homeless in Healthy Michigan, Phil tells us, just as Mike did, that Ministry hopes to save money through the Medicaid expansion. Phil says people question Ministry for helping people with copays and medical costs, but he passionately reasons that other assistance for them “wasn’t happening and people were hurting, so we figure out how to make it happen.”

Phil says he is motivated to do the work because it is hard to repeatedly help people without seeing the problem move. People question why the impoverished and those experiencing homelessness, whom Ministry serves, “can’t do this”. Phil says it’s “not so easy to make those big, across the board judgments” when you make personal relationships with people.

Ultimately, Phil, a quiet but dedicated and passionate person, says, “It’s not just a service, it’s a relationship” and that “there’s something about this place” with “extemporaneous vitality”.  Saying “It’s work that easily becomes more personal,” Phil argues the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and Healthy Michigan is “night and day for us”.  The ability to fully help people and alleviate their suffering through the coverage provided by ACA and Healthy Michigan is, Phil says, “incredible.”

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