Heartside Community Health Workers Take to the Streets of Downtown Grand Rapids

June 19, 2015 6:42 pm

Angie Slagter, RN, Benji Raap, and Mindy Farrish prepare for their walk through the neighborhood.

 Barriers often prevent people from seeing their doctor; whether that barrier is lack of time or transportation, lack of health insurance or not knowing where to go, the team at Mercy Health Heartside Health Center seeks to reduce barriers for those who are in the Heartside district by performing neighborhood walks.

Angie, blood pressure

Angie Slagter takes the blood pressure for Craig Jones.

Visiting high traffic areas on the streets of the Heartside district for an hour or two at a time, Angela Slagter, RN, Case Manager and Community Health Workers Benji Raap and Mindy Farrish wheel a computer cart loaded down with its own hotspot, consent forms, giveaways and a blood pressure cuff, all to interact with people who may not have recently accessed a health care service. They perform these outreaches about once a week.

Today, they are outside of God’s Kitchen, on the corner of Division and Bartlett, right before lunch will be served.

“Hi, we are from the Heartside Clinic right down the street, and we are offering free blood pressure checks,” said Slagter to people who approached the group.

“Oh, sure,” said one passerby, Craig Jones, who filled out a brief consent form and a questionnaire, which were then followed by a medical history search. After his blood pressure was checked, the group arranged him an appointment at the Heartside Health Clinic.

“Yeah, my engine is getting a little sputtery,” said Jones of his health.

Within half an hour of deploying the outreach, the team has personally connected with five people, giving them blood pressure screenings or pamphlets on local health care facilities.

Mindy, Benji, and Angie

Farrish, Raap and Slagter organize and prepare their forms and hotspot for the neighborhood walk on at Division and Bartlett.

“We really like to get them same-day appointments or even directly admitted to the hospital if the need is there,” said Slagter. “On a long-term basis, this program seeks to get people signed up for health insurance and seeking preventive health care, instead of going to the Emergency Department when they are ill.”

Not only are the representatives of Mercy Health Heartside Health Center providing people with quality and accessible care, they are also building long-term relationships within the community. Passersby recognize and greet Raap, the community health worker who has been working in Heartside District. Raap asks questions of them, knowing them by name, and knowing their stories.
“They really just want to talk to someone, connect with them,” said Raap of the people he interacts with every day.

The Heartside Health Center plans to continue this outreach program in the months to come.


Pat Irwin

This is a great service to the homeless people in the area. I do want to single out Benji Raap. I worked with him here in Hauenstein and he was wonderful to work with. But this is his calling to work with the homeless. He also helps us at HQ a homeless and runaway drop in center for teens. We really appreciate everything he does there.

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