Stronger Schools, Stronger Communities
“Stronger schools mean stronger communities.” These words, spoken straight from the heart, are those of Dottie Bullard, Chief Integrated Care and Communications Officer at Mercy Community Healthcare in Franklin. Founded in 1999 as Mercy Children’s Clinic, this non-profit clinic originally operated from a small house on Ninth Avenue near downtown Franklin, donated by a group of Franklin business leaders. With the vision of providing quality healthcare to every child, Mercy impacted the lives of thousands of Middle Tennessee families right from the beginning.
In 2005, Mercy added counseling and social services and in 2006 psychiatry, enabling the organization to provide even more comprehensive, integrated care for children. The clinic’s school-based counseling program began in 2008 at New Hope Academy in Franklin. They were awarded a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services designating it as a federally qualified health center in 2012, and in 2013 began providing comprehensive healthcare services to adults. Says Cindy Siler, CEO at Mercy, “Mercy’s innovative model of integrative care puts us in the top 10% of federally qualified health centers in the nation. Mercy exists to provide excellent healthcare to all in our community. Our professionals in each discipline treat the whole person physically, behaviorally and spiritually.”
They eventually transitioned to Mercy Community Healthcare, offering services including pediatrics and adult primary care, care coordination and case management, integrated mental health (counseling and psychiatry), chronic care management, a patient-centered medical home program and the school-based program. “Services in each program are available to patients of all ages, both insured and uninsured,” says Marcy Webb, EdD, LPC-MHSP, director of
school-based counseling at Mercy. “Mercy’s sliding-fee scale program is based on family size and household income, and the current year’s federal poverty guidelines are used to establish the sliding fee program’s discount schedule.” Currently with three locations in the Williamson Square Shopping Center in Franklin and a health center in Lewisburg, Tenn., Mercy depends on the support of private donations to operate. Their mission is to reflect love and compassion
by providing excellent healthcare to all and support to their families.
With help from United Way of Williamson County (UWWC), Mercy piloted an onsite mental and behavioral health program with Williamson County Schools in 2011. This program brought innovative community services into the schools to provide a much-needed service to access, diagnose and treat students in need. Today the program includes the placement of counselors in 31 schools, including part of the Franklin Special School District and all Marshall County Schools. “We are so grateful for UWWC’s support in forming Mercy’s school-based counseling services,” says Marcy. “We could not have done this without them. They have given us the ability to have a mini-Mercy office in the schools where we serve.”
Mercy’s 20th anniversary and third annual fall dinner, “Bringing Mercy and Hope to our Schools,” was held last November, with proceeds going directly to their school-based counseling program. Says Dottie, “The inaugural dinner in 2017 was held to bring awareness to mental needs, suicide prevention efforts, and help remove the stigma about mental health. All funds raised at the dinners help keep patients in treatment. Mercy will not turn anyone away, and thanks to our generous supporters we never will.”
Their exemplary work in the schools directly complements the bill Governor Bill Lee signed into law in July 2019 striving to reduce incidents of threat in school buildings across the state. The law is modeled after safety protocol implemented by Williamson County Schools, and called for school districts across the state to establish a threat assessment team.
There is comfort in knowing Mercy Community Healthcare is going above and beyond in helping so many youth in Middle Tennessee. “Mercy staff open their hearts to every patient and family,” says Dottie. “We are committed to treating the whole person—body, mind and spirit. From wellness checks and shots to mental health services, Mercy makes long-term, lasting health improvement much more possible.”
Some exciting news is on the horizon for Mercy – the need for a bigger building as they have outgrown their current space in Franklin. Please visit www.mercytn.org to make a donation to this very worthy cause. All donations are greatly appreciated.
Mercy Community Health
1113 Murfreesboro Rd.
Franklin, TN 37064