St. Anna’s has based our outreach and mission programs on community needs. In 2005-06, when there was little or no medical services available in the city after Hurricane Katrina, St. Anna’s Medical Mission (SAMM) was founded and took health care to the streets in an RV, including mental health services. When the BP Oil Spill occurred we again responded, especially with mental health outreach. In 2014 we transitioned to a fixed location inside St. Anna’s to serve the Treme/7th Ward community, a community with an average life expectancy 20 years lower than surrounding areas.
In the last few years New Orleans has increased the number of safety-net clinics available to the poor and uninsured, and Medicaid Expansion has increased the number of people with health insurance. During this same time frame, SAMM started noticing a decrease in utilization of its services.
One of the hallmarks of good mission work is to know when the need is no longer there or has changed — we are at this point in our health outreach. Yes, we know there is still need, but it’s different, and SAMM is no longer as effective as it once was. Therefore, we have decided to close SAMM as we know it today — we will no longer have screening clinics or do flu shots.
We will continue providing health education to our youth programs as part of Anna’s Place NOLA and participate in community-academic groups such as the NOLA Partnership for Mental Health, RADD (Resilience Against Depression Disparities), and C-LEARN (Community Resilience Learning Collaborative & Research Network). We are also having discussions with some partners regarding how St. Anna’s might continue to serve the healthcare needs of New Orleans in the future.