Bringing My Big Vision for a Tiny House Clinic to Life
By Cherisa Meyer-Fletcher PA-C
Are you familiar with the impact of mobile healthcare? Micro-practices? What if these types of options could reach communities for a fraction of the cost, increasing access to affordable healthcare in the communities that need it most?
RV mobile clinics cost $300,000 to $500,000 to purchase but reach people right where they are and allow people to avoid costly visits to the emergency room. By preventing ER visits, the RV, Family Van out of Boston annually saved $3,125,668 in healthcare costs. Micro-practices also aim to provide affordable healthcare by using technology to create a lean, efficient, low-overhead way of doing business. By combining these models, we can offer a new, more affordable type of mobile healthcare — a mobile clinic built in a tiny house — to meet our patients’ needs.
That was my dream, and I thought, with existing models to draw from and good intentions to help people, launching this new idea should be easy, right?
Unfortunately, to bring my vision to life, it took more than ideas and intentions — it took a determined spirit and perseverance, and I was committed to making it happen.
God placed mission work in my heart over 10 years ago. First through a trip to Guatemala, then to the Philippines and now annually to Haiti. During our 2018 trip, we saw almost 1,000 people for medication refills and acute illnesses. The cultures I have encountered on my mission trips are so grateful to receive the medical care, but they have so many needs that we can only address those on the surface.
Working in a community health center in Nebraska with refugees, I found the same types of medical challenges, along with cultural obstacles. Assembly-line medicine does not leave enough time for communicating through an interpreter to understand the cultural needs and barriers that exist.
These communities have shown me what is truly important in life! They have an appreciation for community and relationships — and they deserve better healthcare than they are receiving. With this realization, God called me to step out to do more, and my vision for a tiny house clinic was born! So, I quit my job and stepped out in faith, trusting God to provide income through PRN shifts while I researched and developed Cornerstone Nonprofit Healthcare as a clinic in a tiny house.
I started connecting with a circuit of community organizations, looking for financial and professional support. Each person emphasized that they understood the need, but they also gave me their perspectives of how difficult it would be for me to bring my solution to fruition, and many withheld financial support because of the barriers they perceived. I also found little aid for filing my government applications to establish a nonprofit organization. I will never understand why there are so few resources to help someone improve their community.
It was hard to hear discouraging words, but it fueled me to develop ways to improve my vision.
The vision was big, maybe too big for people to grasp or find enough courage to participate in themselves. But I soon became surrounded in wonderful people wanting to see me succeed.
Having lost my mother to breast cancer and enduring my father transferring for work in another state, I took care of myself from a young age. I had no help applying for school, filling out financial aid applications, signing up for classes or receiving basic emotional support. I developed a blind stubbornness that led me to believe I could do anything as long as I had enough determination. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in genetics, I became an oncology nurse and, still wanting to help at a higher level, then became a Physician Assistant, which produced the professional growth and mission experiences that led me to where I am professionally today.
With persistence and time, Cornerstone became a reality. Our first tiny house clinic is now built! The cost was $47,000 — just 9%-16% of the cost of an RV mobile clinic. Being completely off-grid, the costs to operate the tiny house clinic will be less than half the cost of RV mobile clinics’ operating costs. While most RV mobile clinics are a part of a bigger organization and are operated through grants, this tiny house clinic, with low overhead costs, will be funded through the sliding scale rates that are charged to patients.
Cornerstone Nonprofit Healthcare will not stop at one tiny house clinic. We envision a network of Tiny House clinics serving the areas in Omaha, Nebraska, where brick and mortar clinics have not survived.
God has removed my doubts, and I believe that we will not only be successful, but we will excel! I also look forward to the day when we are able to sponsor other areas to develop tiny house mobile clinic networks!
So many problems exist in our communities, and we need new, innovative ideas to overcome. Yes, the journey of turning ideas into reality can be difficult, but with determination and faith, nothing is impossible!