By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - The week of July 16 through July 20 was a busy one for county officials as they hosted a representative from Hiroshima, Japan.
Naomi Maki is the assistant director of Japan's Local Government Center in New York. She was interested in learning about the different programs the county has developed over the years.
Earlier in the week, Ms. Maki sat in on county budget meetings and other committee meetings, and then later was able to visit some of the local partnership programs, such as the HANDS clinic of St. Lucie County
HANDS is a family medical, vision, mental health and dental clinic located in the county logistics building on U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce. It provides healthcare services to the low-income, medically uninsured and underinsured residents of the county.
"I liked that she was interested in our partnership in St. Lucie," said Christania Selph, HANDS clinic manager.
Ms. Maki visited the nonprofit on Thursday morning.
Built in 2008, the clinic recently opened an adult dental clinic and currently operates a pediatric mobile dental clinic.
Ms. Maki visited the clinic for about an hour, and Ms. Selph was able to explain the organization to her.
"She was interested in how the partnership (between the county and the clinic) worked," she said, "the program itself, and the dynamic that makes it successful."
Ms. Maki is fluent in English, and only needed a little help with the government acronyms. In Japan, the government controls the way its citizens receive healthcare.
"She even gave everyone a small token of appreciation," Ms. Selph said, holding a hand-painted handkerchief.
Currently, the nonprofit serves just 1 percent of the 25 percent to 33 percent that could qualify for its services. The facility operates using donations.
"It was a pleasure to share the story of our successes in the community," Ms. Selph said.
Currently, the nonprofit has more than 50 community partners helping residents. It recently received awards for its programs, including the 2011 Florida Children's Week Community Innovation award and the 2012 Prudential Davis Productivity award.
"We were honored to host Ms. Maki," said Faye Outlaw, St. Lucie County administrator. "It's exciting to share our experiences and some of the public-private partnerships that have been created."
For more information about HANDS, call (772) 344-2544.