TBCHS Celebrates 40 Years Serving Northeast Michigan

HILLMAN–For the last 40 years, Thunder Bay Community Health Service (TBCHS) has proudly provided Northeast Michigan with access to primary health care. Along the way TBCHS has grown by offering services in five primary care clinics in Hillman, Atlanta, Rogers City, Onaway and Fairview as well as extending primary care and behavioral health services to students in 20 local area schools across six counties in partnership with two educational service districts.

To mark this exciting occasion, TBCHS celebrated with an outdoor event recently at the clinic where it all began in Hillman. TBCHS was thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome staff, families, patients, community partners, legislative representatives and the many other individuals that have supported their mission over the years to recognize the growth and impact of the organization and set intentions for the future of Thunder Bay as well.

Two staffers from the Michigan Primary Care Association–Director of Member Services Kochheiser and Michigan Community Health Network Executive Director Russ Kolski–were on hand to take in the festive celebration. Kochheiser presented TBCHS administrative staff with an award on behalf of the MPCA to recognize four decades of service to the surrounding communities.

Not only has Thunder Bay expanded to new service areas in the last 40 years, but it has also expanded offered services to include pharmacy, behavioral health, dental, optometry, substance use disorder (SUD) and medication assisted treatment (MAT), lab and radiology services, psychiatry, internal medicine, insurance enrollment assistance programs, community health worker services, care management, and a variety of telehealth options as well.

“Thunder Bay Community Health Services could not have grown to become the organization it is today without great and dedicated staff, directors and community partnerships throughout its history. One of the areas of growth that I am most proud of is the school based health services that we have been able to provide to children and students across all of Northeastern Michigan,” said Ben Bolser, TBCHS’ Board Chair.

Food was provided by Nowicki’s Sausage Shoppe, ice cream by 32 Below, and music by Steve Rea all compliments of TBCHS. Kids were invited to join their parents and have fun with a chalk and bubble area in the Hillman Clinic parking lot.

TBCHS board chair, Ben Bolser, CEO Michelle Styma and board members led a dedication and ceremony to acknowledge Thunder Bay’s history and mission and express the hopes for the future.

“I am proud of Thunder Bay and the incredible growth we have had in the past 40 years to focus on our mission of building healthier communities. I look forward to our future years and the great services our organization will continue to provide in our northern Michigan communities” said Michelle Styma, CEO. During the dedication, Alvin Bartow was present and acknowledged for being a founding member of TBCHS. The ceremony ended with a Congressional Commendation presented by Brandon Kargol from the office of Congressman Jack Bergman. Tom Kochheiser, Director of Member Services at the Michigan Primary Care Association presented an award in recognition of Thunder Bay’s 40th Anniversary.

All along, Thunder Bay Community Health Service’s mission has been to commit its resources to building healthier communities in Northeast Michigan; TBCHS is honored and excited to have the opportunity to continue improving the health of our communities for another 40 years and beyond.

–Courtesy of Thunder Bay Community Health Service

Gov. Whitmer Visits MPCA Member Thunder Bay Hillman Location

HILLMAN–Governor Gretchen Whitmer traveled here to northern Michigan and visited Thunder Bay Community Health Service (TBCHS). The Governor was welcomed by the TBCHS staff and Board of Directors to share Thunder Bay’s school-based health center program model and the need for continued support to afford opportunities for access to care for the children and adolescents in our northern Michigan communities.

Thunder Bay provides primary care and mental health services in 20 local area schools across six counties in partnership with two educational service districts bringing much needed resources to the students and their families in our communities.

“Now more than ever, we need to ensure all kids have access to the resources they need to be safe and successful. Governor Whitmer has continued to be an advocate to meet the needs in our schools and within our communities and we appreciate her support,” said TBCHS chief executive officer Michelle Styma.

Governor Whitmer had an opportunity to tour the Hillman Health Center and meet with staff to learn more about their full complement of services including primary care, dental, optometry, behavioral health, substance use disorder and pharmacy. TBCHS is celebrating 40 years of building healthier communities in the northern Michigan region providing care to all patients regardless of income or insurance status.

–Thunder Bay Community Health Service

Alcona Opens New Facility, Adds New Residency Program

ALPENA–Alcona Health Center (AHC) last month commemorated the opening of its new medical facility in Iosco County with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Present at the event were members of the Chamber of Commerce, local officials, community partners and other honored guests.

After some initial delays, construction on the new building, located at 208 South State Street in downtown Oscoda began on June 1, 2020. The 20,000-square-foot, two-story facility was framed with an eye to the future with the possibility of expansion to a third floor.

Chief Executive Officer Nancy Spencer said, “Alcona Health Center is pleased to see the completion of this project. We feel this new modern facility is a great addition to the downtown area and will provide easier access for everyone. The building will house the same high-quality, comprehensive medical, behavioral health and dental services that Alcona Health Center currently offers. Expanded healthcare services will also be available through collaborations with community partners.“

AHC moved its existing medical and behavioral health services from the Aune Medical Building on the old Wurtsmith Air Base to the second floor of the new location on May 2. AHC Dental followed the next week, moving into their new home on the first floor of the new facility.

Additional space in the building is being leased by MyMichigan Health and Quest Diagnostics (lab services). MyMichigan is slated to move into their suite on the first floor in June and will be offering imaging services, rehabilitation services and specialty clinics.

An interactive virtual celebration and tour of the facility has been shared on social media and on the AHC website.

In other AHC news, Alcona also has entered into a new collaboration with MyMichigan Medical Center Midland to bring a rural track, family medicine residency program to Alpena County. This residency program allows licensed, recently graduated doctors, to continue their training in a hands-on environment. These residents receive mentorship and supervision from a Faculty Healthcare Provider while gaining real world experience and a better understanding of what it means to practice medicine in a rural setting.

MyMichigan Midland Family Medicine Residency – Alcona Health Center Campus will be located within the existing AHC location in Ossineke (11745 U.S. 23 South). Joining the AHC team will be Faculty Provider, Michelle LaFave, MD and second-year family medicine residents – Christian Grant, MD and David Westphal, MD.

Dr. Grant earned his medical degree from American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, St. Maarten, Netherlands-Antilles. Dr. Westphal earned his medical degree from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Both healthcare providers have chosen to further their training through the residency program at the Alcona Health Center Campus in Ossineke for the next two years. Under the guidance and supervision of their Faculty Provider, they will begin seeing patients in early July of 2022.

Dr. LaFave will be filling the role of a faculty provider for the family medicine residents. She has considerable experience practicing Family Medicine in rural northeast Michigan and brings a passion for teaching to the role. Dr. LaFave will directly oversee the residents, mentoring them during appointments and reviewing patient charts. “I am excited to bring my experience in family medicine in a rural setting to this venture!” she stated. “Mentoring the family doctors in this setting achieves community healthcare needs now and is the way forward in adjusting to future needs.”

Patients who establish care with Dr. Grant or Dr. Westphal will benefit from the care of two healthcare providers reviewing their chart and attending to their healthcare needs – a licensed, recent medical school graduate and the experience of Dr. LaFave.

Those interested in establishing care with either Dr. Grant or Dr. Westphal are encouraged to phone the health center at (989) 471-2156. While they do not start seeing patients until July, appointments for both providers are currently being scheduled.

In 2023, two additional family medicine residents will join the program. Residents participating in the MyMichigan Family Medicine Residency program who choose the rural track at the Alcona Health Center Campus will each be seeing patients at the Ossineke office for two years. There will be up to four residents in the program at a time. Additional information about the program can be found at mymichigan.org/residency and at alconahealthcenters.org/location/Ossineke-clinic/

“We are excited to collaborate with MyMichigan Medical Center Midland to bring this rural track family medicine residency to Alpena County,” said Spencer. “Not only do we have the opportunity to expand access to healthcare in our community through the residency program, we also hope that the experience the residents have in northeast Michigan encourage them to stay in the area to practice.”

“The residency program is so excited to partner with the Alpena community and Alcona Health Center to train residents in a rural setting. We know that physicians tend to stay in or near the community where they train and hope that this endeavor will continue to grow primary care in Northern Michigan,” adds Dr. Kelly Hill, MyMichigan Midland Family Medicine Program Director.

–Courtesy of Alcona Health Centers

Michael Weessies Named New CEO at Hackley Community Care

MUSKEGON, Mich. — The Board of Directors of Hackley Community Care (HCC) is pleased to announce the appointment Michael Weessies as HCC’s new Chief Executive Officer, effective May 16. Mr. Weessies will step into the role of HCC’s retiring CEO Linda Juarez Garzelloni, who has served as organizations CEO for thirty years and leaves an extensive legacy to the community of Muskegon.

Mr. Weessies holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Western Michigan University, and a Bachelors Degree in Health Systems from Ferris State University. He completed a fellowship in health care administration with the Advisory Board Company in Washington, D.C.

During his tenure with Hackley/Mercy Health, Michael reorganized urgent care operations in Grand Rapids, reducing operational investment while also serving on the Trinity Health committee to select a national partner (Premier Health) for the urgent care service line. He then supported the transition of operations to Premier Health in September 2021. He also leveraged the relationship with Shape Corporation to open a COVID-19 vaccination site providing over 35,000 COVID-19 vaccinations to Muskegon and Ottawa County residents during the pandemic.

Mr. Weessies has had an exemplary career at Hackley/Mercy Health and has held the titles of Occupational Health Coordinator, Director of Workplace Health, Director of Workplace Health & DME. Michael brings a wealth of knowledge to HCC, inclusive of 27 years of healthcare experience with Hackley Health/Mercy Health, most recently serving as the Vice President of Business Health Solutions. Additionally, he has served on several local boards including Mercy Life Counseling, Access Health Muskegon, and Reeths Puffer Board of Education. He currently serves on the board for Pioneer Resources and the Employers Association of West Michigan.

HCC has worked directly with Michael over the years and most recently he was the Mercy Health point person as HCC worked with Mercy Health to transition the former Mercy ER to our Clinton NowCare site at 1550 Clinton Street. Hackley Community Care will continue to provide excellent medical, dental, OB/GYN, School Based healthcare, and mental Health services throughout Muskegon County. “I am excited to continue the 30-year legacy of Hackley Community Care while serving with their 285 dedicated, mission based colleagues”, said Mr. Weessies.

–Hackley Community Care Communications

Packard’s Rebecca Fleming Tabbed Michigan’s AmeriCorps Monthly Award

LANSING–As the Director of Community Health Initiatives at Packard Health, Rebecca Fleming plays a vital role in protecting and improving the lives of vulnerable and underserved populations in Washtenaw County through culturally competent means. Rebecca focuses on providing patient outreach, chronic disease management, care coordination, and health promotion.

In addition to overseeing the Community Health Workers and Outreach Nurses, she is a site supervisor for the MPCA HealthCorps AmeriCorps program. The MPCA HealthCorps AmeriCorps program helps connect low income and medically underserved populations to primary health care through patient engagement activities. The goal of the program is to increase access to health care services through preventive care and chronic disease management, assisting Medicaid members in maximizing their health plan benefits, and addressing social determinants of health by eliminating barriers to care.

“We are so fortunate to have been chosen as a host site,” said Rebecca, who has been selected Michigan’s AmeriCorps Site Supervisor of the Month. “Our AmeriCorps volunteers have brought such passion and commitment to the Packard team and our community. We’re super grateful and excited to continue this fantastic partnership!”

Rebecca exhibits many qualities that make her an exceptional site supervisor. She meets weekly with AmeriCorps members to exchange insights, gain clarity, and find solutions to any volunteer requests and needs. These meetings are her way to serve her team, which is exemplary through her actions. She also offers positive feedback and helps AmeriCorps members feel like valued members of the healthcare team at Packard Health. Rebecca aims to improve lives and strengthen communities in Washtenaw County through her work.

“Rebecca is my inspiration to pursue a dual master’s in Public Health with a concentration in health education and social work, focusing on Integrated Health with Medically Underserved Populations,” stated AmeriCorps member Wolfgang Bahr. “Overall, Rebecca has been at the forefront of Packard’s initiatives of helping people tackle the most significant barriers preventing them from receiving equitable healthcare. She has helped lead the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by engaging in intensive vaccine outreach alongside local partners. Her passion for the community has ignited my ambition to pursue a career in community change.”

Learn more about the MPCA HealthCorps AmeriCorps program and other Michigan’s AmeriCorps programs making a positive impact in communities across Michigan. For more information about AmeriCorps, visit www.americorps.gov.

–Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity

MyCare Health Center Continues to Partner With the Macomb County Food Bank

CENTER LINE–MyCare Health Center, a Macomb County-based Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), is pleased to continue their partnership with the Macomb County Food Bank to offer a no cost food pantry at their two locations in Macomb County. Food will be available monthly at their Mount Clemens and Center Line locations on alternating months.

MyCare hosted its first food pantry in August 2021 in Mount Clemens during National Health Center Week. It was so well received that both organizations felt it would be beneficial to the community to continue offering the food pantry, but to alternate between two of  MyCare’s locations. Throughout the rest of the year, two pantries were held in Mount Clemens and two in Center Line. In total, over 180 people we served between both locations. Dates have been scheduled for 2022 with the first distribution event on Tuesday, January 25 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at 18 Market Street, Mount Clemens. The pantry is open to the public, regardless if they are a Macomb County resident. Some items participants can expect to receive are frozen meats, cheese, butter, rice, cereal, milk, bread, and boxes of shelf sustainable food items. Cooler totes will be available while supplies last.

In response to the partnership with MyCare, Ann Wagner from the Macomb County Food Bank stated, “The collaboration between the Macomb County Food Program and MyCare Health Centers is a win-win for our residents. We are grateful for this like-minded partnership, allowing the Food Program to widen its reach, providing relief to even more residents in need.”

“Based on last year’s success, we felt it was important to continue our partnership with the Macomb County Food Bank,” said Karen Wood, CEO of MyCare Health Center. “Serving the community through collaborating with fellow Macomb County organizations is something we strive to do to better serve our community at large.”

For a complete list of distribution dates, locations, and times, please visit the MyCare Health Center website at: www.mycarehealthcenter.org.

–Erika DeLange, MyCare Community Engagement Manager (photo provided)

Honor Community Health’s Dr. Nikhil Hemady honored by ACGME

PONTIAC–The Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) has chosen Dr. Nikhil Hemady, MD, FAAFP, as a recipient of the 2022 Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Award. Hemady, the director of the family medicine residency program at Pontiac General Hospital, is one of just eight physicians nationwide to receive the honor.

“I was pleasantly surprised and honored by the recognition,” Hemady said. “These are the formative years for these residents. This is where you can truly mold them into being outstanding family physicians.”

The Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Award honors program directors who find innovative ways to teach residents and to provide quality health care while remaining connected to the initial impulse to care for others in this environment.

“These esteemed honorees personify the resolution of the GME community to provide quality, equitable health care and education,” said ACGME President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas J. Nasca, MD, MACP. “Now more than ever, it is important to recognize those who serve, and those who work every day to ensure the American public that physician education is in the most capable of hands.”

Dr. Hemady and his fellow award winners will be featured in the Awards Hall during the ACGME’s Annual Education Conference, which will be held virtually on March 30-April 1, 2022. The ACGME Awards honor the best in graduate medical education.

Having served as the family medicine residency program director at Pontiac General Hospital for the past 14 years, Hemady is also the Chief Medical Officer for Honor Community Health, which works in conjunction with PGH’s family medicine rotation. Dr. Hemady has been in practice for more than 20 years.

“Dr. Hemady has the rare ability to be both a gifted teacher and a health care leader that leads from the heart,” said Honor Community Health CEO Deb Brinson. “The next generation of physicians, our patients and the community Honor serves are far better off because of his commitment to high quality care, innovations in the delivery of health care, commitment and passion to teaching along with his genuine compassion to serving others.”

–Honor Community Health Marketing & Communications

InterCare Family Health Network Helps Benton Harbor Community

LANSING–InterCare Family Health Network hosted a successful blood lead testing event on Saturday, Nov. 20, for City of Benton Harbor residents.

Although blood lead tests cannot reveal if a person was exposed to lead in the past, testing is particularly important for young children and pregnant persons because exposure to lead early in life has been shown to cause problems with learning, behavior, hearing and growth. For individuals who have elevated blood lead levels, the goals are to identify the source of lead, stop the lead exposure and to talk with their doctor to discuss any other tests or follow-up that might be needed.

Children less than 6 years old with an elevated blood lead level are offered nurse case management through the Berrien County Health Department, which includes a home visit with a registered nurse.

In addition, in an effort to provide city residents with additional access to safe, clean drinking water, InterCare purchased and had bottled water available for test participants. Staff also provided COVID-19 vaccinations and booster doses as well as flu shots during the event.

Blood lead testing for children also was being offered through the WIC program and the Berrien County Health Department.

Free bottled water continues to be provided by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and local, paid residents as City of Benton Harbor residents are being encouraged to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula.

To arrange water delivery to homebound or residents without transportation in the city of Benton Harbor, contact 211, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Phones that cannot contact 211 should contact 844-875-9211.

The five-day bottled water pickup continues this week:

Monday, Nov. 22

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. (Self-service)
  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, noon – 2 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 23

  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, noon – 2 p.m.
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church, 214 E. Britain Avenue, 4 – 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 24

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 3 – 6 p.m., (Water loaded into vehicles by volunteers)
  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 4 – 6 p.m.

The ongoing response in Benton Harbor includes the city, Berrien County Health Department, local community organizations, MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. This action is part of an accelerated, across-the-board effort to reduce the risk of exposure to lead in drinking water while the city replaces all lead service lines.

Additional dates and locations for bottled water pick up will be added to make sure community needs are met. Information will be posted on  Michigan.gov/MiLeadSafe.

To ensure the continued success of bottled water distribution locations in Benton Harbor and to recognize the city residents who have been stepping up to donate their time and talent, the State of Michigan has partnered with local agencies to pay city residents who work at state-supported bottled water distribution sites. Individuals who want to serve as community ambassadors to help distribute water should connect with an established distribution site. Individuals or groups who want to serve as unpaid volunteers can sign up  on the United Way’s online platform .

MDHHS is engaging in a long-term effort to eliminate lead action level exceedances, educate communities on the effects of lead in drinking water, and remove lead service lines. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for the  replacement of lead service lines in Benton Harbor in 18 months and the Whitmer-Gilchrist Administration has provided just under $20 million to Benton Harbor to speed up their service line replacement timeline.

There is no cost to City of Benton Harbor residents for lead service line replacement. To assist with assuring the work can be completed as soon as possible, residents are encouraged to complete the  Water Service Line Replacement Agreement  available online. Contractors cannot begin work on any property without property owner authorization. Completed forms can be returned to Abonmarche, 95 West Main Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022 or emailed to  [email protected].

These efforts also include recently approved funds to remove lead from homes in the city. Families living in Benton Harbor can apply for this service by filling out and mailing in an application that is available online.  Residents also can call 866-691-5323 to obtain information.

For questions about lead, MDHHS can be reached at 866-691-5323 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

–MDHHS Office of Public Information

Family Health Care Welcomes Two New Providers

BALDWIN – Having providers that are compassionate patient advocates is essential to helping Family Health Care (FHC) achieve its mission. That’s why FHC is pleased to announce the additions of Marisa Gariglio, Family Nurse Practitioner, to its Big Rapids Health Center and Alexander Warnsholz, Physician Assistant, to its Baldwin Health Center.

Marisa has worked as a registered nurse and nurse practitioner in rural health care settings over the last 10 years. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Ferris State University and her Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner at Oakland University.

“Being at Family Health Care is a great opportunity to meet the needs of patients and the community,” said Marisa. “I look forward to being a part of the future growth of the Big Rapids Health Center while building relationships with coworkers, patients, and the community.”

Alexander completed his Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science at Michigan Technological University and his Master of Health Science in Physician Assistant Studies at South College in Knoxville, TN. Since 2016, Alexander has provided outpatient care as a Physician Assistant to residents in Mason, Manistee, and the surrounding counties.

“I am excited to be part of the patient-centered medical team providing care to encompass all of the community’s needs,” said Alexander. “I feel FHC’s mission and my practice goals align very well. I am delighted to be granted this opportunity to join the team in Baldwin.”

Patients can schedule appointments with Marisa and Alexander for various medical concerns, including annual physicals, sick visits, chronic disease management, minor procedures, and acute care visits. Along with medical services, FHC strives to provide quality, affordable access to behavioral health, dental, pharmacy, laboratory, and radiology services.

Marisa provides medical care services at FHC’s Big Rapids Health Center located at 730 Water Tower Road in Big Rapids. To schedule an appointment, call (231) 527-7150.

Alexander provides medical care at FHC’s Baldwin Health Center located at 1615 Michigan Avenue in Baldwin. To schedule an appointment, call (231) 745-4624.

For more information on Family Health Care, visit familyhealthcare.org.

–Travis Kroll, Family Health Care External Relations

Bridge Michigan: Could COVID pills help turn the pandemic tide in Michigan?

DETROIT–The Michigan Primary Care Association member Western Wayne Family Health Centers has been noted in a recent BridgeMi.com feature story by Michigan Health Watch section staff writer Robin Erb.

To read her story “Could COVID pills help turn the pandemic tide in Michigan?”, please click on the link below:

A single pill to fight COVID — that’s the promise the Food and Drug Administration will consider this month when its advisers weigh the evidence of the first of two antiviral drugs that manufacturers say stop coronavirus before it takes hold. READ FULL STORY

Bridge photo by Elaine Cromie