Listening & Learning: Lessons from the Rio Grande Valley and Del Rio, Texas

by Kevin C. Moriarty,
President & CEO

This year MHM has visited two communities within our service area to host regional meetings and to visit with our partners and stakeholders about MHM’s presence in South Texas, and to strengthen the relationships that allow us to collectively meet the needs of the least served. What we have learned from those regional meetings has been invaluable to our own strategic planning process, and reinforced what we hear time and again from our partners: The work each of you do in your communities is critical to helping the least served get access to care, and we must continue to work together to be successful.

Celebrations and Lessons Learned in McAllen

Celebrating the program's ten year anniversaryIn February, I had the opportunity to visit our Rio Grande Valley team members and celebrate MHM’s Church Based Counseling Program’s 10-year anniversary with the Church Based Counseling Services (CBCS) team. The progress that program has made is evidence of how critical strategic planning plays in our ability to meet the needs of those we serve. The CBCS program was part of our strategic plan to improve health in the border area, and was launched in 2003. Our first program site was in Hidalgo County at a Wesley Nurse church site. We started with $180,000 which funded three counselors at six church sites in the Rio Grande Valley, and today the program’s operating budget is over $1 million and funds 11 counselors, who together serve over 17 churches across the Rio Grande Valley, Coastal Bend, and Laredo—and it is still an integral part of improving health along the Texas border.

We also hosted a round table discussion with our funded partners in the Rio Grande Valley, which gave us a unique insight into the challenges they face due to the large unfunded population they serve. The discussion we had during that meeting, and the needs they identified as priority for their community were echoed during a special breakfast we hosted with local UMC Pastors whom we have partnerships with through our Wesley Nurse and CBCS programs.

Rising to Meet Challenges in Del Rio

El Milgro Clinic, MHM funded partner since 2002In May we visited Del Rio, where we had an opportunity to meet with staff and partners from rural communities such as Eagle Pass, Uvalde, Carrizo Springs, Cotulla, and Crystal City. As with each of these events, we invite funded partners, representatives from local hospitals, elected officials, and civic leaders, and the conversations are always illuminating. Similar to the Rio Grande Valley, the rural communities surrounding Del Rio struggle with balancing the tremendous need for healthcare among the uninsured, and sustaining their operations. The recent activity in Austin surrounding Medicaid expansion added a layer of uncertainty as the group discussed the challenges specific to their organizations. Our partner in Cotulla, South Texas Rural Health Services, described how their community in particular has been impacted by Eagle Ford Shale which reinforced my belief that we here at MHM have been successful in identifying the issues that have shaped our strategic planning process.

MHM will be hosting another regional meeting in Corpus Christi in June, which will coincide with the Rio Texas (formerly Southwest Texas Conference) Annual Conference.  While in Corpus, we will visit with Pastors representing the churches where our Wesley Nurse Health Ministries, Church Based Counseling Services, and Parents Helping Parents programs are hosted, and meet with funded partners and other stakeholders to listen and learn how we can continue those partnerships for the health and well-being of South Texas.