Queasy. That’s the word Howard Manning uses to describe how he felt in 2008 when Dorcas Ministries took the leap to purchase an entire shopping plaza in Cary.
But Manning, executive director of the service organization founded here in 1968, knew the buy was key to achieving the ongoing vision to serve local people in need.
“The average client at Dorcas is someone who is experiencing a crisis out of their control, who comes to Dorcas when he’s exhausted all his other resources,” he said. “That first step is to ask for help, to say, ‘I can’t do it by myself, even though I always have before.’”
Today Dorcas Plaza is full, a one-stop center going beyond crisis intervention to offer what Manning calls “wraparound services” that include financial counseling, job training and education, a food pantry and child care.
The newest piece of the services puzzle opened in January: The nonprofit Advance Community Health, serving all ages and offering care at discounted rates for the uninsured, based on family size and household income.
Advance also accepts patients who have health insurance, and those using Medicaid and Medicare, and offers discounted prescriptions on some medications for patients who qualify. There’s even a Healthcare for the Homeless program, offering free or low cost care.
“Healthcare is one of the contributors to poverty,” Manning said. “Health issues can prevent people from working, or force them to choose between buying groceries or medicine.”
Not affiliated with any hospital or state or local agency, Advance also has locations in Southeast Raleigh, Fuquay-Varina, Apex and Louisburg. Its funding comes from grants and donations, including federal grants, and from patient revenue.
“Advance Community Health has been interested in expanding into Western Wake for a few years,” said Wilma Metcalf, manager of marketing and communications for Advance. “So when Dorcas Ministries invited us into Dorcas Plaza, we were immediately interested.
“Dorcas Ministries had identified a community need for access to affordable, quality primary healthcare and had been actively seeking a healthcare partner for Dorcas Plaza. Since we’ve opened, the outpouring of support has been overwhelming,” she said.
The public-private partnership between Dorcas, Wake County and the Town of Cary means locals no longer have to travel to downtown Raleigh to receive services ranging from primary care to immunizations and diagnostic tests.
“My friend told me about it; it’s closer to home,” said first-time patient Christina Flowers. “The doctor is nice and comfortable to talk to.
“I have insurance, but they’ll work with people who don’t too. I’ll keep coming here.”
Lead provider at Advance’s Dorcas location is family nurse practitioner Datanya Betts, who is overseen by a medical doctor in the health center’s Apex location.
Metcalf says at full capacity, staff will be able to see up to 22 patients a day, and a second provider could be added as the practice grows.
Through its various locations, “Advance patients also have access to dietitians, dentistry, mental health care and behavioral health counseling,” she said. “We treat a person as a person, not just a health issue.”
Manning says the partnership allows Dorcas to refer clients for healthcare, and vice versa, and boosts Dorcas’ efforts to give clients the tools they need to move from dependency to self-reliance.
Dorcas, which generates 75 to 80 percent of its own revenue, continues to rely on support from local businesses, individuals and volunteers, including those who donate to the Dorcas thrift shop.
For Advance, Metcalf says community support can come through financial donations and patient referrals.
“This is two organizations using their everyday resources to give the community an exponential return,” Manning said. “I can see us expanding services to have dental, behavioral health and substance abuse counseling right here. The sky’s the limit.”