Live Long & Prosper

Shadden Publishing

A Mission of Mercy

Posted by on May 1, 2018

I don’t usually report on healthcare as it’s not my area of expertise. I suffer from believing just as much of the murky mythology surrounding it as anyone else. A Mission of Mercy is a classic in promoting the resilient community. In a way, the local volunteers aren’t delivering healthcare, they are delivering hope.

My reports more often describe the interesting places and quirky things you might see while touring Phoenix. I like to include adventures that fit the senior lifestyle or assist disabled tourists in some way. Let’s face it, we all want to see what’s out there. The more I thought about it though, A Mission of Mercy is, in fact, an interesting place…… places. It’s mobile, you see.   

Dr. Seuss once called “The Waiting Place, a most useless place.” He had an entertaining way of describing this level of broken. In his book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, he described people

“Waiting for a train to go

or a bus to come, or a plane to go

or the mail to come, or the rain to go

or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

or waiting around for a Yes or No 

or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.”

A Mission of Mercy volunteer chooses to wait not at all. They go. They serve. They deliver.

I was invited to tour a Mission of Mercy site, or, facility or you might call it “mission.” Ms. Paula Carvalho, the Executive Director, was kind enough to meet with us personally and she also conducted a short but very informative tour. This particular roving clinic was staged at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Central Phoenix. The Valley of the Sun is what it is and the drive from my home was an hour but in the end, it was worth it.  It’s not often one gets a chance to observe hope in action.

One of the two best reasons given for participating in a tour is “KNOW what’s happening in your Community.” Turns out, that’s a very good reason to offer. In fact, I found I really didn’t know much about this organization nor about the depth of the problem with the distribution of healthcare resources. Everyone simply does not have access to healthcare despite the new and expensive law.

The “floor” we expected turns out to be full of cracks and lots of people slip through these ending up with either no or just not affordable health maintenance without either plan or system. A Mission of Mercy offers a different system, one based on patient need and volunteer providers.  Take a look at their operation on Facebook at  Better yet, to schedule your own tour contact Diana:

Dignity restored

A Mission of Mercy is a nonprofit in Arizona (since 1997) that has provided free healthcare and free prescription medications to those who have fallen through “the cracks.” There are no qualifying processes, sliding scales or co-pays.  As the Founder, Dr. Gianna Talone-Sullivan said: “How can we restore dignity if someone has to prove their poverty?” Doesn’t much sound like a government program, does it? No patient (homeless, elderly, child or economically stressed) has to prove that he/she is equally poor, though many are.

In fact, this nonprofit is entirely privately funded and its board makes a point of not accepting the strings that so often accompanies government funding.   The clinics are staffed by volunteer doctors, nurses, nurse-practitioners, counselors, medical drivers and registration assistants.  These moving clinics provide regularly scheduled sessions in six locations around the metro-Phoenix area providing general family practice type care. These are not urgent or emergency intervention that exists in other more familiar venues.

Regularly scheduled clinics with appointments recommended

Those who seek treatment are encouraged to make appointments but that’s not a strict rule. Many individuals simply show up at the door when it opens and they receive treatment for most conditions. Since 1997, the MoM has provided over 200,000 patient visits and distributed 300,000 prescription medications to those who are uninsured or under-insured in Maricopa County.

A new location will be opening Friday at the Chandler First Church of the Nazarene. The organization is faith-based but no one preaches. Volunteers prefer to act on their beliefs and all are welcome.

This tour helped me to understand what enormous problems still haunt access to healthcare. I’m really trying to understand whether The Affordable Healthcare Act made anything better.  Arizona still has the highest rate of uninsured children…..hey, we’re #1 in the country with 217,000. We have the 12th highest rate of uninsured adults (15% or 1 in 6). One in four are under-insured, that is, they have insurance…some kind of insurance, but still, they can’t afford to get sick.  38% of our working families are low-income but don’t quite qualify for any subsidy program. These have to constantly choose between food, transportation, and healthcare. You don’t have to tell them about how to stretch a budget.  All requests are honored if possible without judgment since the economic need is self-reported. No statistics are kept and none reported to other agencies. The issues treated are generally not immediate public health risks although one might consider food security part of the greater problem at the root of growing concern.

The patients seen at each mission clinic tend to be regulars. In fact, Ms. Carvalho indicated the top two conditions patients come to seek treatment for are chronic conditions, diabetes, and hypertension, not colds, flu, infections or injuries. Emergency rooms aren’t designed or intended for primary care or maintenance services.

Not One of Those Waiting Places

Another great reason for touring A Mission of Mercy clinic is “Learn how to get Involved and Make a Difference.”  Volunteers restore dignity and provide healing through love.  One of their founding goals is to be a national role model of compassionate care — Care without Barriers.   Stay out of those Dr. Seuss waiting places.

Seriously, volunteers give their time, talents, skills, and experience to provide everything it takes to make one of these fascinating mobile clinics run efficiently and with dignity.  Even the mobile van used to provide patient exams and treatment is outfitted with efficiency and dignity affording privacy as well as some degree of comfort.  Every single skill and activity is contributed by volunteers from the community. It’s a joyous and beautiful thing to watch such an organized operation.

In fact, you really ought to see it in action.

Volunteers are needed: Some of the skills it takes to provide care: stagehands, interpreters, nurses, physicians, drivers, data entry, registration assistance, photographers, call center operators, special events staff, and community relations staff. To volunteer contact Paula



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