Addressing the Health Care Gap in Detroit


Nearly 40 years ago, community hospitals throughout Southwest Detroit closed. Healthcare providers fled the city to work in the suburbs leaving a gap in healthcare services for the city’s residents. To address the need and increase access to care, Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS) was established. Based in Detroit, MI – a city hit hard by the economic recession – CHASS provides much needed services for the community’s growing uninsured population.

We had the opportunity to interview Mark Kirsch, CHASS’ Pharmacist in Charge, about his involvement with CHASS.

Direct Relief: Can you describe for us the work that you do?

Kirsch: My job is not work, it is a pleasure. I am able to use my clinical skills and establish a spectacular formulary along with Dr. Felix Valbuena MD, Chief Medical Director of CHASS Center. Replenishment programs such as Direct Relief allow our patients to receive top of the line medication. My pharmacy staff works as a team to ensure patients have a great experience. Even though we dispense 300 prescriptions daily and filled 62,000 prescriptions in 2011, service is our mission. I have been a pharmacist for over 31 years and this is the best “job” I have ever had.

Direct Relief: What is the biggest challenge your health center faces?

Kirsch: CHASS Pharmacy’s patient population and prescriptions continue to rise. Detroit is suffering with unusually high unemployment and poverty. Even the suburbs, once vibrant, are feeling the economic woes. Detroit has closed down its Health Department Pharmacy and Adult Medicine Clinic. We anticipate an influx of 6,000 patients.

Direct Relief: Why do you work at CHASS?

Kirsch: I enjoy seeing people receive the best medical care in Michigan. Patients are extremely grateful and often say if CHASS didn’t exist, they wouldn’t know what to do. We have social workers, eight medical providers, a full-time dentist and hygienist, two lawyers, an outreach program, WIC, and yes, even a pharmacy. Where else would I work?

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