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Bach Charon and a Tribute to Consumer Leadership

August 22, 2012  |  By Heidi Romans Nelson, CEO Duffy Health Center

On August 7, 2012, we lost an important member of the Duffy family – Bach Charon, a beloved board member and patient.

The community health center movement, at its grassroots, is a patient and community-driven model. Health centers include board members who represent the community, like all not-for-profits, but also those who actually use the services of the health center. How better could an organization be responsive to community and patient needs?

Bach first encountered Duffy Health Center through meeting our case manager, Janet Mott. She helped him to find a place to live in Orleans. Janet says that she and Jeffrey McHugh, another case manager, helped Bach with the move. Janet introduced Bach to the health care team here at Duffy, including Louise Patrick, our director of Behavioral Health Services, who became a trusted confidant and partner in problem-solving. Like many of our patients, Bach suffered from a number of chronic conditions, but he faced his health issues with faith and even good cheer. It wasn’t long before Bach was meeting his neighbors at the apartment building, volunteering at the Orleans senior center, serving as a leader of the Duffy Advisory Board, and becoming a board member of Duffy Health Center.  

Bach was a natural choice for consumer leadership. He ‘starred’ in the Duffy video; you can view him by going to the homepage on our website and clicking on the video. When we offered computer classes, Bach was one of the first to sign-up. This landed him on the front page of the Cape Cod Times when they covered the story! His family reports that Bach’s community leadership extended back at least to their childhood, where he was a key figure in creating recreational opportunities for kids in Eastham.

Bach has been a member of the Duffy Health Center board of directors since 2008, serving as the voice of the patients we serve. Bach was attentive and thoughtful, and represented our consumers speaking clearly and without fear. Bach was a founding member of the Duffy Consumer Advisory Board, and although this group defies formal chairmanship, Bach was a faithful member and leader of the group. Until recently he had been working to help administer the consumer satisfaction survey for the opioid treatment program, and planning for the Stand Down veteran’s event.

Personally, I will always remember the first time I met Bach, at the national Health Care for the Homeless conference in San Francisco in 2010. I was still working in Chicago, but interviewing for the Duffy job. Bach introduced himself to me, shook my hand, and winked hard when he said, ‘nice to meet you.’ He let me know he was in my corner!

We plan to honor Bach, first by lighting a candle at his spot at the board table at our next meeting; and later, by commissioning a piece of art to be created by Duffy consumers, to hang in the board room. The funds donated to Duffy as a memorial to Bach will be used to purchase art supplies and compensate the artist.

So we can always remember Bach’s contribution to consumer leadership.