Depressing sight! Shame on FHC Executive Director Frances Anthes!

By Rosalie Tirella

With all the pols and papers in town congratulating themselves on how well Worcester is feeding its poor, I did not think I would see this telling little sight:

Today, in the early afternoon, at the Family Health Center on Queen Street, there’s a young Latino woman. She is bundled up against the cold in a short jacket. She is wearing sneakers. She comes up to the secretary in the doctors’ suite and says this: I was told I could apply for Food Stamps here.

She was told this by the un-sympathetic secretary: No, you can’t do that here any more. We lost the grant that pays the person to take your application. You have to go to the Department of Transitional Assistance now.

FUCKING PATHETIC! You want something to work on Mayor Joe O’Brien? Here it is! Project #1.

Here we are in the middle of Piedmont, with poor people just trying to stay abreast of heating bills, rent, etc, and Family Health Center which is, on the whole, responsible for the health of  Worcester’s poor, can’t help a poor person put food on the table for herself (and I’m guessing) her kids. FHC can’t help a poor person stay healthy.

This should not have happened: L.G. Tim Murray and all the pols and the head honchos at food banks have talked on and on about SNAP, the program that was supposed to make it easier for the poor to eat well. That’s because under this new rule, people would be able to apply for Food Stamps at lots of places, schools, their local hospitals, especially their local INNER-CITY HEALTH CENTERS.

Former City Councilor Dennis Irish, an all around great guy, met with me and talked about this. Well, Dennis, Fran Anthes is asleep at the wheel! People who do not have cars, who may be struggling with other issues, but who DO make it to their doctor’s appointment at Family Health Center, should be able to apply for Food Stamps! They should be able to fill out a simple form and pass it in to someone at Family Health Center. The person at Family Health Center – if you lost the grant and do not determine Food Stamp eligibility at FHC any longer – the FHC staffer should be able to Pony Express the Food Stamp applications or (for Gawd’s sake!) MAIL them to the welfare office.

This bit of work doesnot require someone be hired for a job! It doesn’t need to have grant money bankroll what a doctor, nurse or nurse’s aid can do – in a SNAP.

It’s awful when all the city’s big wigs are all self congratulatory about spearheading important programs, and then the programs just die. Without so much as a whimper. Without anyone noticing – except the poor, who never ever complain half so vociferously as privileged folks.

Shame on Family Health Center. Shame on Worcester.

Did that  young woman who was turned away so abruptly feel angry, sad, etc? I don’t know; she turned away just as abruptly as she was rejected and walked out of the doctors’ office. Will she go to the wlefare office? Will she do it today? Next week? Will she be able to better care for her family by buying more food/more nutritious food? We’ll never know.

But I do know this: If we want to make poor people healthier, if we want to see fewer sick people at Family Health Center, then Fran Anthes needs to re-instate the SNAP program at her Family Health Center. Just ask someone in the city for money, Fran. Or fold the job (which is most likely teeny) into someone else’s and give them a small raise.

Let’s hope the other hospitals in Worcester haven’t pulled the plug on the SNAP program. Let’s hope poor people can still apply for Food Stamps at Memorial or UMass hospitals. It was all supposed to happen at patient in-take time. This is not so hard.

Let’s support – really and truly support – poor families in the dead of winter.

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