Common Ground

: opinions or interests shared by each of two or more parties

: an agreed on basis

: a foundation for mutual understanding

: something that people can agree about, especially when they disagree about other things

It is no coincidence that the ABCCM Medical Ministry has a keen interest in all the meanings of “common ground”. The Medical Clinic, Dental and Pharmacy services exist on the premise that our community believes in and has found common ground in a place to serve. The not-so-small miracle is that this kind of common ground circumvents the barriers that are often found in the way that patients have to seek care.  To date, those living in Buncombe County who are uninsured, and earn less than 200% of Federal Poverty Level (FPL) can approach the clinic for evaluation and receive treatment free of charge.

 Now add a verb: “reach”

The clinic reaches common ground with many community partners.  They see and understand that every patient who is helped by a volunteer or staff member in the clinic, is a patient who avoids a costly, uncovered emergency visit or an advancement of illness that requires admission without insurance coverage. Our primary care partners, WNCCHS/Minnie Jones FHC and MAHEC FHC, reach common ground when we are able to refer patients, who will remain in our county, for long-term/ongoing healthcare.

 Now add another verb: “achieve”

When we all look at our commonalities and our differences, we see a newer path. It is not the path that we use to “reach” common ground. It is a harder, uphill path.  We all use our strengths, money and skills to take this path. We work hard to climb this hill, each from a different direction. When we reach the same spot at the end of the climb, then we have “achieved” common ground.  The safety net is an example of how this concept of achieving common ground works in our community.  Our “same spot” is an outcome- based collaboration among partners who care for those who are uninsured.

 Recently, members of the westernmost free clinics spent some time looking at our critical “commonalities”.  These traits apply to our community agencies also:

-we see uninsured patients

-we have similar mission statements

-we have similar starts, moving from small to larger

-we are all part of a healthcare system now

-we have goals for high quality care

-we have financial sources that change and have an ebb and flow

-we are all leveraging our resources

The last thing on our list was that we all used volunteers to staff our services. This is not true of all of our community partners.  In some settings, there is just no way to make a volunteer experience happen.  The Medical Ministry works hard to achieve this common ground in a medical practice.  Our volunteers work hard to achieve this common ground for patients.  For instance, a Buncombe County resident who had been out of state for treatment and had lived in a sheltered situation, was sent back to his home town of Asheville because he was no longer eligible for care at their facility. His family called to ask for help in his care because they were at a loss for knowing where to begin.  This patient had ridden the bus back to town, got off the bus and promptly fell hitting his head and sustaining injury requiring an emergency department visit.  He made it to the clinic with his discharge papers and was placed in a room for a visit. The physician came out of his visit and just stated “this patient cannot see anything”.  He really could not see to go down the hallway. Within an hour, Asheville Eye Associates had him a new patient appointment, and he was driven there from the clinic. In that same hour, Services for the Blind had an intake from his family and was on the way to approving care at Asheville Eye.  He has since had surgery with his vision improving.  Common ground was truly “achieved”.

 In every season of thankfulness and giving, the Medical Ministry feels a huge amount of pride in this achievement of common ground for our community.  If you share this same commitment to use any of your uphill skills in volunteering, find us on the web at or call us at 828-259-5339.

Beth Reeves, MSN FNP-BC
Clinic Coordinator