M. BASHEER AHMED, M.D.
It was summer of 1995, when Dr. Ahmed received a call from Catholic charities regarding the newly arrived refugees from Bosnia who were needing information regarding place of worship and availability of halal food. They tried to get the information from local Mosques but they did not get any response. During 1990’s they were few Mosques in this area who were struggling to built the appropriate place of worship and paying attention to teachings of Quran and Islam. I was aware that Dallas Fort Worth did not have any social service organization to help the social issues confronting newly arrived Muslims refugees and immigrants. I have met some of the refugees and realized that they do need help on multiple issues and have difficulty in accessing services available due to religious, cultural and language difficulties. I was also aware that other religious entities have established well functioning social service organizations such as catholic charities and Jewish family services.
I called a meeting of Muslim community leaders and 35 individuals responded to my call including religious leaders, physicians, businessmen and social activists. They all accepted that we need to establish and organization to assist Muslim refugees and immigrants who have difficulty in accessing these services due to financial reason and cultural language difficulties. An organization Muslim Community Center for Human Services was established to provide the needed services. Initially MCC provided services to Muslim minorities but in 2004 MCC opened its door to everybody irrespective of religion, race, ethnicity or country of origin. MCC for Human Services is the first organization established in Texas which offers both medical and social services to the needy community. During past 20 years, some medical clinics were established in Dallas area but MCC still is the only organization which provides the medical, dental, mental health and social services. It is serving the community for past 20 years.
Please see the brief summary of the services MCC offers to the Dallas Fort Worth community:
The Muslim Community Center for Human Services (MCCHS) is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization founded in 1995 to meet the medical and social service needs of more than 100,000 underserved immigrants from South-East Asia, the Middle-East and Africa that reside in the Dallas/ Fort Worth Metroplex. The organization began by providing health fairs, health and social services informational seminars and a 24-hour Help-line in response to issues faced by persons that were not American born, especially first generation immigrants and refugees. In 1998, MCCHS opened its Al-Shifa Clinic to provide free, non-emergency medical services to indigent patients with no health insurance. MCCHS has grown over the past decade from serving the needs of its initial target group to offering a continuum of medical and social services to diverse populations of underserved persons from multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures and religions. MCCHS currently defines its target group as 1) persons that are underserved due to barriers resulting from culture or language differences (particularly Asian, Middle Eastern and African immigrants) and 2) persons that are uninsured or underinsured regardless of race, religion or residence. MCCHS continues its original services -- which have been expanded to include domestic violence intervention services, healthy marriage initiatives, and health education programs.
Role in the Community
Medical Services: MCCHS’ Al-Shifa Clinic is a charity care medical clinic that provides non-emergency services to uninsured and underinsured patients. Individuals who present for emergency services are referred to acute care medical centers nearest to their home. A team of twenty-two physicians volunteer time to provide medical services to patients at the Al-Shifa Clinic, which is currently open five days a week. Patients access services through word of mouth from family members or community residents; through formal partnerships and referral linkages with other Tarrant County service providers; or as walk-ins resulting from MCCHS’ extensive outreach and awareness activities. The clinic provides diagnostic laboratory services for indigent patients at a discounted rate and accesses thousands of dollars of donated medications to distribute as needed to patients free of charge. Every year we provide services to over 1,200 patients. One hundred percent (100%) of clinic patients were low income or had no insurance. MCCHS has secured multi-year funding through a Tarrant County Indigent Care grant to extend clinic hours to five days per week. The grant is terminated in 2014 and currently we are providing medical services three days a week.
Eye Care: Patients in need of eye examinations are seen at our monthly Eye Clinic where an optometrist performs an eye screening exam and a prescription for corrective lens is provided when indicated. Once a month an area volunteer ophthalmologist provides free consultation and treatment to indigent patients referred from the Al-Shifa clinic. A volunteer optometrist provides services once a month. Because so many of our patients are diabetic, we are exploring funding sources to purchase the needed equipment to screen those patients for glaucoma. We are currently exploring grant funding from Alcon Foundation to improve patient load and services.
Dental Care: On August 7, 2010, the Dental Clinic opened to provide general dentistry services. These services include x-ray, cleaning, filling, and extractions. A volunteer dentist and a volunteer dental hygienist comprise the clinic staff. The equipment for dental clinic was generously donated by a retired Christian dentist who is still providing volunteer care at the clinic.
Mental Health Services: The Clinic is staffed by the volunteer services of a licensed psychiatrist and counselors. MCCHS offers treatment to a variety of patients with mental health problems. Incidents of mental health issues are high among immigrants and there are very few charitable clinics offering mental health services. MCCHS is one of the few clinics to offer these services. Majority of patients seen in our clinic are suffering from depression and stress related anxiety. Patients with more serious mental disorders are referred to local public mental health clinics for more appropriate treatment therapies.
Family Social Services: MCCHS has a 24-hour hotline for crisis intervention, appointment scheduling, information, or referrals for services. This year as in previous years, most calls received were related to domestic/family violence. In addition to fielding calls to discuss information about available services, MCCHS provides immediate assistance to victims of domestic violence and child abuse. MCCHS received 30-50 calls a year related to domestic violence. MCCHS’ social worker provides individual and family counseling to address mental health issues and marital and family problems associated with immigrant families trying to cope with differing customs, cultures, and laws. Serious cases of domestic violence are referred to local shelters for appropriate care.
Education & Awareness: MCCHS organizes a large and small Health Fair each year featuring special events such as screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes, breast cancer, eye problems and dental concerns. MCCHS Health Fairs are at various locations such as religious centers, schools and local houses of worship; these larger events benefit from 300–400 individuals each year. Uninsured health fair participants who are screened and whose lab work results reveal abnormal findings are referred to our MCCHS Al-Shifa free clinic for follow-up; those with insurance are provided with a list of area clinics.
MCCHS presents educational seminars on a variety of health related subjects including the effects of smoking on health status, chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and stroke prevention, recognition and intervention. Special programs are organized for senior citizens to receive health screenings and education on memory disturbance, nutrition challenges, and prostate cancer.
MCCHS provides a Breast Cancer Awareness Program throughout the year which includes cancer risk awareness education and prevention seminars made possible by a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Through collaboration with the Harris Methodist Mobile Unit and Moncrief Cancer Resource Center of Fort Worth women are referred for and provided with free mammograms. Approximately 200 women received breast cancer education program and 50 women received free mammogram.
Due to funding difficulties we had to cut down some of the programs while the demand for services has not been reduced. We are seeking funds to hire a executive director who will devote all his time in seeking funds for organization and expand the existing services to another level.