Every Tuesday morning, a team of Bastyr Center for Natural Health providers and Bastyr University students set up their clinic space at Mary’s Place in downtown Seattle. At appointments that are often back-to-back, guests receive free naturopathic care for a variety of health conditions, including colds, digestive issues, diabetes, arthritis and menstrual complaints. This essential access to primary medical care keeps patients like Betty coming back to Bastyr’s Mary’s Place clinic, sometimes for years.
Betty has received assistance from Mary’s Place since 1995, and Bastyr providers joined her health care team in the early 2000s. The Bastyr appointment model at Mary’s Place differs from a typical wellness visit: Student clinicians intake the patient’s medical history, then present a diagnosis and treatment plan to the supervising physician for approval before sharing it with the patient. Appointments with Bastyr clinicians help Betty manage her diabetes and hepatitis. “When I say thank you, I really mean it,” she says. “Mary’s Place saved my life. [It] supports these women in a very sacred way. They don’t discriminate.”
Patients with conditions such as those seen at Mary’s Place are often managed by a primary care provider, but limitations on cost or the number of covered visits often create large gaps when people are unable to receive much needed treatment. In such situations, prevention can be key — something as simple as a weekly checkup can mean the difference between wellness and a visit to the ER. At the end of an appointment with Bastyr at Mary’s Place, patients walk away with a course of action: from diet and lifestyle modifications to specially formulated blends of herbs and supplements. “We provide a certain amount of stability in an otherwise chaotic living situation. We are another intervention for them to get the care that they really need,” says Jen Johnson, ND, Bastyr supervising physician at Mary’s Place.
In response to the homelessness crisis Shelters such as Mary’s Place provide resources for the steps toward optimal wellness and housing security. In 1999, a group of dedicated individuals saw a growing need in Seattle. The number of women and children who, like Betty, were experiencing homelessness was continuing to rise and with it, the challenge of creating a daily structure that included meeting basic physical needs. Thanks to the hard work of a committed staff, Mary’s Place opened the first of its many locations in the greater Seattle area that year. Now in its 20th year, Mary’s Place continues to serve women and children experiencing homelessness, providing two meals a day, clean clothing and other essential support services. Bastyr has proudly provided naturopathic medical care at Mary’s Place since the partnership began in 2003.
Community care sites like Mary’s Place are essential to Bastyr’s vision to transform the health and well-being of the human community, and they are vital to humanizing the condition of homelessness, which continues to be a growing concern in the Seattle area. An important step in improving health outcomes is ensuring that future providers graduate well equipped to care for those who are underserved.
Naturopathic medical student Francisco Miranda speaks of his experience at Mary’s Place: “Mary’s Place has been an absolute blessing to both me and the many women it serves. I and other Bastyr clinicians have had the pleasure of getting to know many of the women who count on Bastyr. Without our presence at Mary’s Place, naturopathic care, supplements and vitamins would be unattainable. I have been able to asses and help patients manage a wide range of acute and chronic conditions such as diabetes, skin disorders, hypertension, glaucoma, fatigue and GI complaints, which are key to my comprehensive medical training. I'm grateful for all the women at Mary’s Place Downtown have taught me through our conversations, prayers and laughter."
Resources such as naturopathic medical care must continue to be provided for people at all income levels. Read more about Mary’s Place and the rest of Bastyr’s community care sites.