Nonprofit Catholic medical clinic committed to serving COVID-19 patients

Bella Health & Wellness offers drive-through clinic for those with novel coronavirus symptoms

Roxanne King

On March 23, Bella Health & Wellness began offering a drive-through clinic for people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. It fit perfectly with the nonprofit medical practice’s mission.

“To have our community scared and alone in their symptoms is not in the mission of Bella,” said Dede Chism, Bella’s co-founder and executive director. “The mission of Bella is to make people whole.”

Disturbed that people who weren’t sick enough to be hospitalized but who were experiencing fever, cough and shortness of breath — the telltale signs of the novel coronavirus — needed to be evaluated and tested, Chism took her concern to prayer.

“The Lord very clearly said, ‘Go back to where you started,’” Chism said. “So we looked back to our mission roots.”

Ten years ago, Chism and her daughter Abbey Sinnett, who are both nurse practitioners, had finished a medical mission in the high Andes Mountains of Peru and felt God was calling them to take that spirit of holistic health care back home. Two years later, they opened Bella under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese of Denver.

“Who knows, maybe it was about this moment in time [God was speaking of] when he said, ‘Take this back to my people,’” Chism mused. “It has never been the way of Catholics in health care and in our Church to walk away from crises such as the plague. It has been the way of the Church to respond with the zeal of the martyrs and the saints.”

To have our community scared and alone in their symptoms is not in the mission of Bella. The mission of Bella is to make people whole.”

Chism and staff settled on the drive-through clinic as the best way to see and treat patients with COVID-19 symptoms that would keep both the patients and others safe.

The drive-through clinic is located in the parking lot of Bella Health and Wellness, 180 E. Hampden Ave. in Englewood. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Patients should plan for a telemedicine visit prior to a drive-through appointment, Chism said, which minimizes unnecessary exposure and permits assessing the proper care. In addition to fever, cough and shortness of breath, those experiencing congestion, sore throat, aches and influenza-like symptoms are also being seen in the drive-through clinic. In the drive-through, medical personnel in protective gear will check a patient’s vital signs and examine them.

“We evaluate and treat them just as if they are in our office, but we’ve made their car the exam room,” Chism said. “We discuss the treatment plan, test for whatever needs tested, and order any other tests. We give prescriptions and directions on home care, quarantine and keeping family safe.”

Dede Chism performs a drive-through check up on a patient at Bella Health + Wellness. The clinic is offering drive-through testing for people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. (Photo from Bella’s Facebook page)

Although COVID-19 tests are scarce, working with a private laboratory Bella is able to do two to 10 COVID-19 tests per day and is expecting rapid tests (which must be backed up by a lab test) to be available soon, Chism said. The drive-through clinic also does influenza and strep testing if indicated.

The drive-through clinic is averaging six to 10 cars daily, but Chism said staffers were preparing for a surge in traffic to occur around Easter (April 12), when COVID-19 cases were expected to peak in the state. The surge is expected to last about a week or two, she said.

“God-willing, all the shelter-in-place is making a difference to decrease the spread of the virus,” Chism said, urging people to follow the prevention recommendations to stay home, wash hands often, and observe social distancing of six feet. “That cannot be emphasized enough.”

Healthy and noncontagious patient visits — including pregnancy and well-child check-ups — are held inside the Bella offices, Chism said. Even so, just over half of all Bella patients are receiving telemedicine visits.

“We want people to be able to seek care and get care at this moment in time if they need it,” she said. “We want for them to be well in body, mind and soul.”

Cost for a drive-through visit is $100 plus testing fees. Bella accepts most insurance plans.

“We’re going to continue [the drive-through] as long as needed,” Chism said.

Bella Health & Wellness

180 E. Hampden Ave.
Englewood, CO 80113

COMING UP: The Next Pope and Vatican II

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Polemics about the Second Vatican Council continue to bedevil the global Catholic conversation.

Some Catholics, often found in the moribund local Churches of western Europe, claim that the Council’s “spirit” has never been implemented (although the Catholic Lite implementation they propose seems more akin to liberal Protestantism than Catholicism). Other voices claim that the Council was a terrible mistake and that its teaching should be quietly forgotten, consigned to the dustbin of history. In The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (just published by Ignatius Press), I suggest that some clarifying papal interventions are needed to address these confusions.

To begin: the next pope should remind Catholics what Pope John XXIII intended for the Council, thereby challenging both the Catholic Lite Brigade and the Forget Vatican II Platoon.

The pope’s opening address to Vatican II on October 11, 1962, made his intention clear: The Church, he said, must re-focus on Jesus Christ, from whom she “takes her name, her grace, and her total meaning.” The Church must put the Gospel proclamation of Jesus Christ, the answer to the question that is every human life, at the center of her self-understanding. The Church must make that proclamation by proposing, “whole and entire and without distortion” the truths Christ gave the Church. And the Church must transmit those truths in ways that invite skeptical contemporary men and women into friendship with the Lord Jesus.

John XXIII did not imagine Vatican II to be a Council of deconstruction. Nor did he imagine it to be a Council that froze the Church in amber. Rather, Pope John’s opening address to Vatican II called the entire Church to take up the task of Christian mission: the mission to offer humanity the truth about God and us, both of which are revealed in Jesus Christ.  The next pope should forcefully remind the Church of this.

The next pope might also engage – and settle – a parallel debate that began during Vatican II and continues today: Did the Catholic Church reinvent itself between October 11, 1962, and December 8, 1965, the day the Council solemnly closed? Or must the documents of Vatican II be read in continuity with revelation and tradition? Curiously, the “progressive” Catholic Lite Brigade and the ultra-traditionalist Forget Vatican II Platoon promote the same answer: Vatican II was indeed a Council of discontinuity. But that is the wrong answer. It is a mistaken reading of John XXIII’s intention for Vatican II. It is a mistaken reading of Paul VI’s guidance of the Council. And It is a mistaken reading of the Council’s texts.

Three canonized popes – John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II – plus the great theologian-pope Benedict XVI have insisted that Vatican II can and must be read in continuity with settled Catholic doctrine. To claim that Vatican II was a Council of rupture and reinvention is to say, in effect, that these great men were either duplicitous, anti-conciliar reactionaries (the tacit indictment of the progressives) or material heretics (the tacit indictment from the far right-field bleachers). Neither indictment has any merit, although the latter has recently gotten undeserved attention, thanks to ill-considered commentaries reverberating through the echo chambers of social media and the ultra-traditionalist blogosphere.

Thus the next pope ought to insist that the Catholic Church does not do rupture, reinvention, or “paradigm shifts.” Why? Because Jesus Christ – “the same yesterday and today and forever” [Hebrews 13.8] – is always the center of the Church. That conviction is the beginning of any authentic evangelization, any authentically Catholic development of doctrine, and any proper implementation of Vatican II.

The next pope should also lift up the Council’s genuine achievements: its vigorous  affirmation of the reality and binding authority of divine revelation; its biblical enrichment of the Church’s self-understanding as a communion of disciples in mission; its insistence that everyone in the Church is called to holiness, especially through the liturgy; its defense of basic human rights, including the first of civil rights, religious freedom; its commitment to truth-centered ecumenical and interreligious dialogues. Yes, there have been distortions of these teachings; but to blame the distortions on the teachings themselves is a serious analytical error.

A Catholicism indistinguishable from liberal Protestantism has no future. Neither does a Catholicism that attempts to recreate a largely imaginary past. The Catholicism with a future is the Catholicism of the Second Vatican Council, rightly understood and properly implemented. That happens to be the living Catholicism of today, and the next pope should recognize that, too.