Family Health Center shit-storm

By Rosalie Tirella

Last week I wrote the piece about FHC’s inability to process SNAP (Food Stamp) applications.

First, I got a call from the wonderful Dennis Irish who, in his typical even-handed, thoughtful way, told me yes, the SNAP program had been stopped at FHC. He also told me FHC reapplied for grant $ and got it – so now FHC will once again be able to take Food Stamp applications! This is great!

Dennis also said he would get an email out to me, with more info., which he did:

Here it is:

Hello Rosalie,

Dennis Irish has asked me to follow up with you regarding SNAP outreach happening around the city. In addition to being able to apply at DTA as well as at St. Vincents Hospital and at UMass Memorial Hospital, SNAP application assistance is available at a variety of locations in the city. With the help of Project Bread funding, Family Health now has SNAP application assistance and information available daily from 9:30-2:30. Also, through continued funding from the Health Foundation of Central MA, Hunger-Free & Healthy is able to fund a mobile SNAP Outreach worker that travels to a variety of sites including Jeremiah’s Inn, Friendly House, Workforce Development, Quinsigamond Community Village, Workforce Development, Salvation Army, WIC, the PIP Shelter, United Congregational Church Food Pantry, St. Pauls Food Pantry, YWCA and Mass Veterans Association. Other sites are added as necessary and as the coordinators schedule allows. In the future, sites will include more Head Start locations. Also, a grant that DTA and Project Bread received is funding a second SNAP Outreach worker in Worcester … .

And last but not least, I just got this letter from Family Health Center Director Fran Anthes’ son. (I am glad so many people care about helping struggling Worcester families!)

But before you read it (I know FHC – infact, my primary doc is there. It is my health center (of choice)!

Letter from Matthew Anthes-Washburn:

Dear Ms. Tirella,

You seem to use a lot of strong words freely, but I would like to address your use of the word “shame.” Where you have used the word in personal attacks, here I will use it to express my disappointment in your piece.

First, it is a shame that this is not a piece of journalism. You certainly have the workings for a story here. It is a shame you didn’t call Fran Anthes for a comment on your story before you went to print. I happen to know Ms. Anthes well (she is my mother), and it is a shame you didn’t seek the facts for your story from her, as you would have discovered that there ARE restrictions on the application submission, and not just anyone is allowed to help submit the application. The Project BREAD staff who facilitate the applications have to log into the SNAP system. It’s not a form, and you can’t just log in on your home computer. It is also a shame that you haven’t reported that through some very impressive cooperation, the Family Health Center of Worcester and Project BREAD have been able to restore this and many other services on a part-time basis. I’m sure you have readers who would be glad to know that, and it is a shame that information has not made it to print. It is a shame that you printed your assumptions instead of researching the facts to serve your readers.

It is a shame that you paint the Family Health Center of Worcester in such a tattered and dismal light. I have been a patient of FHCW since I was a young child. To refer to the center as “responsible for the health of Worcester’s poor” may have been meant as a compliment, but it is backhanded at best. Such a comment undermines the fact that there is no superior outlet of care in the city or even the state, along with the remarkable fact that support is available on a sliding basis so that anyone can seek and afford care there. The exceptional staff of FHCW saved my life by detecting a case of cancer before I or anyone else was aware of any symptoms.

Finally, it is a shame that your words have been aimed at personal attacks at several good, smart, hardworking and compassionate people who have made innumerable contributions to the health of our community. It is a shame to see this outburst, bordering on libel, reaching the same Google results page as my mother’s well-deserved recognitions as an Anna Maria College Everyday Hero and Worcester Business Journal Women in Business Awardee. I know full well that I am biased and have an exceptional appreciation for my mother’s accomplishments, but it is a shame for you call her “asleep at the wheel,” when, in addition to making her own tireless service to her community, she has contributed to her community by raising three Worcester Public School scholars who are now reciprocating their gifts with contributions as a public school teacher, assistant to the district attorney, and civil servant.

It is a shame you don’t know Fran Anthes better, a shame you have such an unfair view, and a crying shame that you’ve shared such disrespectful words with others.

Matthew Anthes-Washburn

And here’s my blog post that started it all

Depressing sight

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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