Health Intervention Services provides holistic services for many in Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy HIS

Photo courtesy HIS

“When patients walk into Health Intervention Services, they often say, ‘It’s different when I come here,’” said Sylvia Daining, retiring executive director of Health Intervention Services (HIS), located near the corner of Burton and Division. “They aren’t just being rushed through; they’re being listened to and cared for as a person.”

Such is the mission of HIS, a faith-based organization founded in 1998 that provides health care services like general and special physical care, dental, counseling and spiritual care for the uninsured and underserved in Grand Rapids.

“HIS’ services are targeted towards those who fall through the cracks in society; [HIS] acts as a safety net for them,” explained Bill Paxton, the new president and executive director of HIS.

Daining argues that health care and community are connected. “People’s health at their jobs, how they live in their families and live in their neighborhoods depends on their health. How strong a community is depends on the health of each individual. There shouldn’t be many tiers of health care — everyone should have access to a certain quality of healthcare.”

The interconnectedness of the mind, body and soul is a tenet of HIS’ service provision. The clinic offers a unique model, offering diverse services under one roof. General and family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, ophthalmology, dental care, chiropractic services, psychiatry and urgent care are some of the many services that HIS provides to its patients.

A distinctly Christian organization, HIS also provides spiritual care to those in the community. “Most of our patients want to have a conversation about their faith and prayer life, and how God intervenes in health is important to them,” said Daining.

The services that HIS provides are largely volunteer-driven. There are a few physicians on staff, but many dentists, medical specialists, nurses and psychiatrists freely offer their time and expertise to those who can’t afford private practice.

“Volunteers love spending time here,” Daining enthused. “They can spend as much time as they want with a patient. With the clock, schedule and bottom line, spending more time in conversation with patients is something doctors are looking for.”

Calvin nursing students often spend time at HIS as a part of the community nursing portion of clinicals. Senior nursing student Sarah Hall is one of the students taking part in the program this semester. “We have been able to shadow and help some of the health care providers at HIS and they do an incredible job. There is so much teamwork and professionalism present; it’s so evident in everything they do,” she said.

The way the clinic operates may be impacted by the Affordable Care Act, though how that will look is anyone’s guess, according to Daining. Paxton added, saying, “In the past, the uninsured were the ones who fell through the cracks, but the Affordable Care Act has changed that a bit. We will probably be serving more Medicaid patients as well as refugees and immigrants, both legal and undocumented.”

Both legal immigrants and refugees who have been in the United States for less than five years are ineligible for this health care, which may lead to HIS playing a greater role in their care.

A new era at HIS will begin as Daining passes the torch of Directorship to Paxton. Looking forward, both have a hopeful vision for the future of HIS.

“I pray that we continue to be Jesus’ hands and feet and voice for those who haven’t always had a voice,” said Paxton, “and to give care and mercy for those who haven’t experienced that before, and to heal the sick and make strong communities because we believe in the great healer.”