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Welcome center opens to improve community health

Zedrick Mitchell cuts the ribbon to officially open the Healthy Blue welcome center at 272 S. Mt. Aubiurn Rd., Cape Girardeau. The purpose of this facility is to improve the health of this community. Photo by Gregory Dullum

Healthy Blue Missouri officially opened its community welcome center at 272 S. Mt. Auburn Rd. (downstairs from McAlister’s Deli) in Cape Girardeau July 25.

The celebration included a ribbon cutting, two check presentations, a clown, and refreshments provided by food trucks (barbecue and snow cones). Missouri State Sen. Holly Rehder spoke and signed complimentary copies of her autobiographical book, Cinder Girl.

The community welcome center will serve as a one-stop shop for a wide range of information and resources to help people in need gain access to food, housing, transportation, employment and healthcare.

Zedrick Mitchell of Jackson is the face of the new community welcome center, working there five days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“I’m a Jackson native, class of ’91” said Mitchell. “We’re local. So we know the community. I really took this job because I love to help people.

“As you all know, there are plenty of needs here in Cape Girardeau. The purpose of this welcome center is to improve the health of this community. That’s really what we’re trying to do.”

“It’s not just s a place to let people know about Medicaid and the state benefits; [but] that’s part,” said Ken Nichols, Healthy Blue Medicaid director for marketing and community outreach. “It’s not just to let them know about Healthy Blue and the additional value-added benefits that we offer the community, but it’s also to let them know about all of the community-based organizations, faith-based organizations and resources they have to help people in need.”

Missouri communities face a wide range of challenges that impact their quality of life. These factors are known as social drivers of health. As much as 80 percent of a person’s health status is influenced by drivers of health.

With these drivers in mind, Healthy Blue takes a whole-person approach in working with members and community-based organizations to improve health outcomes and make meaningful, sustainable advances to enhance overall wellness.

In a press release, Healthy Blue stated the following:

“Through the newly established community welcome center, Healthy Blue associates and experts will be able to connect members with health services in a way that’s most convenient for them by addressing the physical, behavioral, economic, social, and environmental factors that impact community health. This new resource will provide community members with education, tools and resources so they can achieve optimal health and well-being.

“Healthy Blue is committed to creating strong communities that are united toward positive and lasting change that will build a brighter, better future for members and local communities.”

Healthy Blue put its money where its mouth is. The company presented a $10,000 check to the Bollinger County Library to help pay for community hot spots that will bring high-speed Internet to rural areas in that county.

Healthy Blue also presented a $1,000 check to Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri to help pay for the construction of the Life House, a home for pregnant, unwed mothers which is under construction in Cape Girardeau.

Healthy Blue also purchased a number of Rehder’s books to distribute to attendees free of charge. Rehder signed books during the celebration.

“I was a pregnant teenager,” Rehder shared with the group. “I was 15 when I had to quit school and help take care of my family, and got married right after that to my 21-year-old boyfriend, and got pregnant immediately after that. I had my first daughter at 16.”

Rehder knew nothing about taking care of a baby. “I never handled a baby, never in any way,” she said. “The ladies at WIC really helped me with breast feeding and understanding the importance of [making medical] appointments for the baby and what to do when the umbilical cord fell off and those types of things.

“The work that you guys do is like the WIC ladies that I had 37 years ago,” Rehder said.

Rehder overcame a difficult childhood and obstacles in her life to become our local state senator. Healthy Blue made her book available in hopes that it will be an inspiration to other girls in the area who find themselves in a similar situation.

The free event was open to the community. Complimentary food was provided by BBQ Smoke Shack and Ty’s Summer Sno, while Kelli the Event Clown entertained visitors with her balloon art.

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at

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