“…The first one is granting better access to all for healthcare. When people have access to healthcare they get back to work, school and to their community. This helps build the economy, not take away from it. The second is providing people with the basic things they need: food, clothing, shelter and healthcare. When people have this, they feel safer and, in my opinion, give back to society as a whole. The third is allocate more funds toward healthcare and a healthy society. If we spent more money on healthcare, they could spend less money on policy.”
I had the pleasure to interview Owen O’Neill, the Executive Director of the Non-Profit “Clinics Can Help”
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I worked as a nurse in the state of Florida for over twenty years. Virtually all of the people we discharged home needed medical equipment as part of their recovery. The people who could afford a wheelchair or hospital bed got better while the ones who couldn’t often got worse. In time, I started doing home visits and I saw how much medical equipment people had in their garages and closets. That’s when I realized that people had a surplus of medical equipment on hand. They just needed to find a way to donate it. That’s where I came in. It was my goal to connect people to the life-saving equipment they needed to make a big increase in their medical care. So, I started collecting wheelchairs and hospital beds, which I would donate to patients at local clinics, and coined it Clinics Can Help. And, even now that we donate to individuals in need, the name stuck.
So how exactly does your organization help people?
Clinics Can Help (CCH) accepts gently used and new durable medical equipment (DME) and unwrapped medical supplies from individuals and organizations and makes them available to children and adults who may not otherwise be able to afford such equipment and supplies for their physical recovery. We are the only organization of its kind in Florida and one of the largest in the U.S. that provides this critical assistance.
DME includes a wide range of costly equipment that is integral in helping people heal, rehabilitate and recover from traumatic and chronic conditions. CCH provides the following and more: traditional and motorized wheelchairs, home hospital beds, medical air mattresses, walkers, nebulizers, shower chairs, bedside commodes, incontinent briefs and wound care supplies.
When we receive donations, we engage a plan of organized recycling as a way of ensuring that every person has access to the medical equipment and supplies they need for an effective recovery and to ensure the mobility, independence and dignity for a quality life.
This is obviously not easy work. What drives you?
The fact that as an organization we change lives. Just by making medical equipment available to children and adults who may not otherwise be able to afford it can be vital their physical recovery and quality of life.
For me, it is realizing that we have found a tipping point in medical care. If people have access to medical equipment that is appropriate to their need they recover faster, they have a much lower chance of re-injury, and their new mobility empowers them to get out, preventing the isolation that leads to depression. When you see how much good you can do, it makes you want to dig in and do more.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve.
Yes, actually. The first one is granting better access to all for healthcare. When people have access to healthcare they get back to work, school and to their community. This helps build the economy, not take away from it.
The second is providing people with the basic things they need: food, clothing, shelter and healthcare. When people have this, they feel safer and, in my opinion, give back to society as a whole.
The third is allocate more funds toward healthcare and a healthy society. If we spent more money on healthcare, they could spend less money on policy.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you get you to where you are?
Yes, two actually. My mentor, Jim Sugarman, who has worked as an Executive Director in the nonprofit world for over thirty years, taught me the ins and outs of running a nonprofit. For me, it made all the difference in the world to have someone to go to for advice who truly knew this industry. It truly molded me as an Executive Director myself.
The second is Dr. Faustino Gonzalez. Dr. G and I worked together and ultimately he helped me with Clinics Can Help when I made the leap. His kind heart, knowledge of healthcare and patient needs, and connections in the community had a huge impact right off the bat.
I know they always wanted me to succeed and played a big role in getting CCH, and me, to where we are today. I always try to lead the way they do and help others that were in my position.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
One of my favorite projects that we have worked on is our CRIBS project. At the end of each year for the last 4 years we’ve been able to donate over 300 cribs to new and expectant mothers across our community. These are families who have no money to purchase a crib and ultimately have no safe sleeping environment for their infant. With SIDS being a constant threat to babies, we wanted to do something to make a difference. Each year, as we head in to the holiday season, this is something that truly gets me in to the spirit. To see the look on these mothers’ faces and to know we are giving a child a place that us safe is a huge deal to me.
5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO
1. Help everyone you can. You will build stronger relationships through the people you help.
2. Take the time to set the culture of your organization and of your board.
3. Listening skills are more important that speaking skills, but those are important too.
4. Support your staff in every way you can.
5. Hire well and get out of their way.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see just see this. 🙂
If I had to just pick one, I would choose Malcom Gladwell. His books like The Tipping Point, taught me that there are very effective ways to approach an issue if we are willing to look outside the box. If I can pick another, I would say Fr. Greg Doyle. His book, Tattoos on the Heart, inspired me to live a life helping others.
Originally published at medium.com