In 1939, Charles Stewart Mott realized that there would be children in Genesee County whose parents may not be able to afford health care, and believed that no child should go without it. He set up a clinic for children in the middle of Hurley Hospital that would soon outgrow the confines of that facility and in 1962, a new building was constructed at 806 Tuuri Place, its current location.
Today, Mott Children’s Health Center (MCHC) helps thousands of Genesee County kids get a fair and healthy start in life. “Our mission is to make sure that every child in the County gets access to health care and health education,” says Jeff House, Director of Child & Adolescent Health Services. “We want to improve outcomes for our children and give them the resources needed to be healthy.” In keeping with that mission, MCHC provides numerous services for children and adolescents up to 19 years of age. MCHC provides comprehensive, state-of-the-art dental care; primary care including sick and well visits, audiology, health education and nutrition, vaccinations; family support services and mental health services including behavioral therapy, psychiatric evaluation and treatment, individualized counseling and family counseling. MCHC also works with Head Start and the GISD to educate kids about proper health and nutrition. “Mott is an awesome organization,” shares House. “We see over 17,000 visits a year on our dental floor and over 10,000 visits in primary care. Additionally, we educate well over 15,000 kids in schools annually.”
To be eligible for services at MCHC, the patient must be 18 years old or younger, live in Genesee County and be within a certain percentage of the poverty line. “If you are eligible for Medicaid, you are eligible for our services,” he explains. “The exact answer is that if you live in Genesee County and are within 200% of the poverty line, you are eligible. At a rough estimate, that line is usually an annual income level of $51,000 or less for a family of four. If you live in Flint, the guidelines are 400% of the poverty line.”
Last year, MCHC expanded its services by launching a mobile dental bus in partnership with the University of Michigan to provide cleanings and fluoride treatments for kids around the city. They have added a weekly WIC office to their site and have welcomed Genesee Health System Child & Family Services group to the entire third floor of the building. MCHC is doing its best to cover all the needs of local children, and there is more. At the facility’s Information Station, each patient may choose a free book to take home after each visit. A newly refurbished Wellness Center opened in the building offering physical activity for children and teens. You do not have to be a patient of MCHC to use the Wellness Center; it is open to the public. The new facility offers treadmills, elliptical trainers, upright bikes, a strength-training circuit and more. (Reservations must be made for the Wellness Center by calling 810.767.5750.)
Opened this year, the most recent addition is the Pediatric Cardiology Clinic – something that has brought excitement to MCHC. “We conducted an assessment of the County’s needs and realized that there was a big demand for it,” explains House. “According to a survey of local pediatricians, cardiology was the number one need. It is a full-service clinic – we do echocardiograms and a complete physical and cardiac evaluation. Then, we follow through with the patient to make sure that the treatment plan developed by the family and physician is followed.”
“Our mission is to make sure that every child in the County gets access to health care and health education.”
Jeff House, Director of Child & Adolescent Health Services.
To offer the services, MCHC has partnered with the University Physicians and Children’s Hospital of Michigan. The Cardiology Clinic is currently open every other Tuesday, but that will most likely change as demand increases. “As schedules fill up, we plan to take the next step to have the clinic open once a week. We don’t want a waiting list of more than a week,” informs House. “If a child needs care, we want to be able to meet the need in a timely manner.” Anyone who meets the age requirements is eligible for care at the new Pediatric Cardiology Clinic; there are no poverty guidelines or geographic boundaries for cardiology services.
According to House, MCHC will continue to expand services. Toward the year’s end, they will reinitiate parenting classes and are looking to enhance behavioral health and psychiatry services. “The need is great for mental health services in Genesee County. Many of our patients have gone through Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs),” he explains. “We screen all of our kids for trauma and ACEs. Trauma at a young age can lead to ailments such as depression, type 2 diabetes, stress and cardiac problems later in life.” House states that if kids are able to deal with those experiences earlier, it will result in a better-functioning and healthier adult. “We have a shortage of mental health providers in the area and a huge need for them,” he adds. “Behavioral health helps kids work through challenges and stress instead of bottling it all up inside.” To that end, MCHC has added cooking classes and exercise to help kids better handle stress. They have also recently hired two behavioral health specialists and may soon need more. Parents will always be part of the plan if a child is admitted for behavioral health ailments.
For House, it’s all about giving the children the best start in body, soul and mind. The holistic approach used at MCHC will continue – care providers at the facility are all talented individuals and dedicated to their mission. “It’s an amazing and fun place to work,” House says. “We have an awesome mission and work with great patients and parents. We have a high quality of care and we can do things here that there isn’t reimbursement for – it’s what families need.” House recently shared one of his favorite stories: “A little boy came in for a dental appointment and he was really scared. One of our dental assistants, Ms. Lisa Carr, RDA, bonded with him and found out that he liked ‘Minions’. We always give kids stickers after an appointment to say thank you for coming to see us, but we limit it to six. When Lisa gave him his Minion stickers, he looked up at her and said that he needed to give two of them back – that he had eight, not six. She told him that he could have the two extras. He immediately smiled and stated, ‘so, it’s really true?’ Lisa answered, ‘what’s that?’ and he said, ‘you really do make people smile.’ He was six years old. How can you have a bad day after hearing something like that?”
In honor of their 80th Anniversary, MCHC will host a community block party on July 27, 2019. Entertainment, food, games and services will be available for all attendees. MCHC encourages all Genesee County residents to attend and help them celebrate the quality care and services they provide. “It is our way of thanking our community for their support,” House says.
Visit MCHC and give your child a healthy start!
For more information about the services offered at Mott Children’s Health Center, visit mottchc.org. To schedule an appointment or make a referral for service, call 810.767.5750.
Photography by Kayce McClure