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Rudy Arispe Methodist Healthcare Ministries Written by: Rudy Arispe
Issue: January 2011 | NSIDE Medical
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Providing health and spiritual care to the economically disadvantaged throughout South Texas Photography by: Jeffrey Truitt Photography

When Kevin Moriarty took the helm of Methodist Healthcare Ministries (MHM) of South Texas Inc. in 1996, the private, faith-based, non-profit organization earmarked $200,000 to support its one and only program – Wesley Health and Wellness Center with a volunteer doctor and dentist – that served 1,200 patients. This year, MHM will funnel $45.5 million to support more than 75 partner organizations in 72 Texas counties that will provide much-needed health and wellness services to 500,000 patients. “It’s been a remarkable journey, as well as going down pathways that were unexpected, such as the relationships with federally qualified health centers,” said Moriarty, MHM’s 60-year-old president and chief executive officer. “There was no thinking at the time when I got here that we would be delivering health care to any entity other than Wesley Health and Wellness Center.” Times – and social and economic issues – have changed, of course, and with them a greater need for more health and medical services to families struggling to put food on the table or pay the rent or mortgage, especially in the wake of the nation’s economic recession. It’s exactly why these same individuals are turning to organizations funded by MHM for help more than ever before.

In San Antonio and Bexar County, MHM funds various organizations, such as the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas, Planned Parenthood of San Antonio and CentroMed, among many others. Ernesto Gómez, president and CEO of CentroMed, said MHM has had a monumental impact on the indigent health care system in San Antonio and South Texas by providing leadership in health planning to address unmet health care needs. The organization, he adds, has also served as a catalyst for much-needed changes to public policies expanding access to health care. “MHM has provided direct funding support for numerous nonprofit agencies that serve working families who can’t afford health insurance,” Gómez said. “MHM is truly in tune with the struggles of working families and the difficult choices they have to make in dealing with scarce financial resources.” MHM also has helped CentroMed with funding to hire additional physicians, dentists and behavioral clinicians to provide care for the increasing number of uninsured patients.

“Their support has enabled us to operate medical and dental clinics at partner nonprofit agencies providing services to clients that include homeless persons at Haven for Hope; abused and neglected children at Children’s Shelter of San Antonio; victims of domestic violence at the Battered Women’s Shelter; and children of special needs at Respite Care of San Antonio,” Gómez said. Another key component of MHM is to provide spiritual care and counseling to the communities it serves by offering Methodist and inter-faith church connections at many of its funded sites. “We encourage people to get in touch with their spiritual roots – Catholic, Baptist or whatever that is. It makes no difference to us,” Moriarty said. “It’s a matter of understanding that somebody’s health and well-being is connected to mind, body and spirit.” No doubt, MHM was wise to hire Moriarty when it did 14 years ago. The New York native, who has called the Alamo City home for the past 35 years, is credited with being the guiding force – and light – behind much of the organization’s immense growth and expansion as it carries out the Methodist Church’s mission of “serving humanity to honor God” by improving the physical, mental and spiritual health of those least served.

In addition to a savvy business sense (probably acquired from his 20 years with the City of San Antonio in social services planning, monitoring and evaluation), he possesses a tenacity and willingness to tackle problems head on and overcome them. More importantly, Moriarty pours his heart and soul of making life a little brighter for others into his work. During the recession two years ago, MHM was faced with a budget crisis as the need for more services in the community grew. At the same time, its investment portfolio tanked. But rather than cut funding, the board took out a $50 million line of credit and infused its partner nonprofits with a vital dose of cash flow so that they would not have to turn anybody away. “Talk about taking a risk,” Moriarty said. “We paid it all back and then some. Yet, we never stopped funding or expanding organizations. We’re going to hit the $60 million mark for 2011 and have increased our partners’ programs from 50 to 120.” This is just one prime example of Moriarty’s refusal to retreat in the face of adversity, and this admirable trait has not gone unnoticed.

Richard T. Gilby, MHM chair of the board of directors, notes that Moriarty’s passion and extraordinary vision have enhanced the direction that the MHM board has outlined for the organization. Under the president’s leadership, MHM has grown from one program of $200,000 for 1,200 clients in 1996 to a budgeted expenditure of more than $52 million in 2010 through contracts with partners and operated programs, making MHM the largest private funding source for health care services in South Texas. “Above all, Kevin has an unwavering sense of justice and sincere compassion for people,” Gilby said. “It’s that sense of justice that has propelled MHM to be a voice at the Texas Legislature for the least served and to champion causes that will improve the quality of life for all Texans, especially children. Kevin views himself as a servant-leader – a value that he helps to instill at all levels of his team – and that has been an inspiration to me both personally and as a member of the board.” In case one wonders how Moriarty developed such a great altruistic spirit, perhaps it has something to do with his experience as a 21-year-old volunteer teacher with the Peace Corps in Liberia from 1971-73. Although he taught math, science and English as a second language, he also was required to construct buildings. However, the most intriguing aspect for him was being partnered with a community health care nurse, who piqued his interest in what she was doing. “Health care issues in the Third World were terrible, but health care issues in the U.S. were similarly distressing,” he said. “I thought it would be good to dedicate a lifetime to see about changing that.”

This also explains how and why Moriarty doesn’t let a few challenges or setbacks get in his way as CEO of MHM. “There’s a whole philosophy in the Peace Corps that you never have obstacles you couldn’t defeat. So now when presented with problems, I never think it can’t be done,” he said. “I always say we’ll get through it, and keep the end result in mind to provide health care for somebody, or increase access to health care.” Moriarty was fresh out of graduate school with a master’s degree in health care from New York’s Hunter College, and was working for the New York Health Department during what he said was “the worst recession in my memory. New York was bankrupt, and the Health Department was cutting people,” which prompted him to want to explore the United States. He thought he would try his luck in San Antonio. After arriving here in 1975, he was hired by the city’s Human Resources and Services Department and eventually became its director in 1982. His last position with the City of San Antonio was as director of the Department of Community Initiatives. Sitting inside his comfortable Medical Center office with the prominently displayed black-and-white portraits of landscapes, which he photographed on his camping, hiking and biking adventures throughout the country, Moriarty mentions that he plans to remain involved in the health care industry and helping others well into the next era of his life. “I’ll be researching and trying to figure out if there is something I can do related to international relief at some point in my life after Methodist Healthcare Ministries,” he said.

Those who know him well probably couldn’t imagine Moriarty doing anything in which he is not lending a helping hand. He’s been doing it since his teens, when he began doing community service back in Brooklyn. “I have a firm belief that one’s life ought to be used for some purpose,” he said. “I thought it would be good to try to change the outcome for others.” And thankfully for the countless lives in San Antonio and South Texas who are in dire need of health and medical assistance, he is.

For more information, call 210-692-0234 or visit www.mhm.org.

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