Jeff and Kristen Ley didn’t have to travel around the world to find people who needed help. They discovered their mission within their own community.
In 2013, the Leys began the process of opening a charitable health clinic in Lanier County.
It took four years to realize their goal, and in May they opened Faith Hope & Love Health and Wellness Center. The renovated clinic, located in Lakeland, provides primary care to patients 13 years and older.
Jeff said that the clinic’s mission is to provide affordable primary healthcare for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people in Lanier County and the surrounding area.
“We are faith based; it’s in our name,” he said. “Building relationships is critical to our mission, and it shows patients the love of Christ.”
Southside Baptist Church in Lakeland purchased the building that houses the clinic and serves as a financial sponsor.
“I felt called to this area,” said Kristen, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science Nursing in adult nurse practitioner from Valdosta State University. “I graduated from Lanier County High School. This is where I grew up and where we are raising a family.”
Lanier County, with a population of approximately 10,000, is considered “medically underserved” by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
The HRSA defines a medically underserved area as having inadequate primary healthcare providers, a high infant mortality rate, high poverty level, or high elderly population.
“There are limited places in this area that take new Medicaid and Medicare patients,” said Jeff, who serves as the clinic’s executive officer. “We also take private insurance and offer a sliding scale for patients that are uninsured.”
Kristen said that hypertension and diabetes are two of the biggest medical needs she sees within the clinic.
While in the nurse practitioner program at VSU, Kristen conducted a study on diabetic management at the local hospital.
“I wasn’t able to prescribe medicine, and I had a limited budget,” she said. “It was mostly education about the importance of diet and exercise for diabetic patients.”
Kristen gave each participant a pedometer and stretch bands for exercise, and then monitored their weight.
“More than half of the patients decreased their BMI (Body Mass Index) and A1C (blood test for type 2 diabetes),” she said. “What I found was that I really enjoyed teaching the patients and getting to know them.”
Kristen said providing education and access are the keys to the clinic’s success.
“Education is a big part of dealing with hypertension and diabetes,” she said. “We also provide our patients with access to medical care that many weren’t getting before.”
In addition to lack of insurance, transportation is an issue.
“Some of our patients don’t have a car,” Kristen said, “so even driving to Valdosta to see a doctor can be a burden.”
The Leys plan to expand healthcare services to include women’s health and counseling.
“We are here to help people in our community,” Jeff said. “We want people to see the love of Jesus Christ and meet their physical and spiritual needs.”