Chattanoogan: Barrett Taylor – Accessing The Possibilities

Saturday, February 22, 2014 - by Jen Jeffrey

With a family background in healthcare, it was no surprise that Barrett Taylor would develop a passion for helping those less fortunate to have access to healthcare. As the community outreach and development director at Chattanooga Cares, Barrett sees opportunity not only for those who need healthcare, but for our economic growth.

Born in South Pittsburg, Barrett’s family moved to the Lookout area while he was still a youth. He attended Bright and McCallie schools, and he was involved in sports and played soccer at a fairly high level. His father, Viston Taylor, started a local hospice and currently runs The Pace Center at Alexian Brothers downtown. Barrett’s grandfather, Dr. Viston Taylor Sr., started a hospital in South Pittsburg. His mother, Judy, was in nursing at Vanderbilt.

Though Barrett’s focus was basically political or social related, his love for the community and for people would bring him full circle back to healthcare with issues he cared about.

“I have always been an instigator or leader and at Mc Callie I got in trouble several times, but they always justified it as my ‘leadership potential’,” Barrett quips. “I was a rule follower though and McCallie taught me high standards that I like to live by today.”

Like most young men entering adulthood, Barrett sought adventure and new experiences and packed his bags for Boulder, Colo., where he attended the University.

As he studied cultural anthropology and learned about the world and different people of the world, it allowed him to have a wide range of perspectives.

“I gained a pretty strong passion and insight for inner nature and things such as minority rights and, at that time, even women’s rights. It adjusted my world views in a big way,” Barrett says.

Barrett noticed that the women he came in contact with who were from California and the Northeast had very different views from those in the South.

“They weren’t better views or worse – just different. And even though I came from a family of women who were very matriarchal, leaders and working women - very smart and influential - I noticed they had different viewpoints. People from different places have a very different world view,” Barrett says.

He did a lot of studying during the majority of his time in Colorado, but also enjoyed climbing and he also picked up music while he was there.

“I come from a musical family, but I didn’t embrace that until I got into college. I got a good dose of West Coast Bluegrass and folk music and when I came back I started playing a lot.”

Barrett had a passion for music, but playing became something social and meditative for him as well as entertaining.  He plays mostly acoustic music with the mandolin and guitar and follows an Americana-style genre.

“I have been playing for 25 years and have been playing with the same group of people. We play every Wednesday night around town in people’s homes,” Barrett says.

The Wednesday night crew is a tight group of several friends of many artists and musicians who simply enjoy music. Barrett was delighted to be a part of creating an album with a group called “Moon Slew”.

Barrett has two daughters with his ex-wife. His daughter Hazel is in the seventh grade at Baylor and is a nationally recognized equestrian, while his four-year-old daughter Freddi is in gymnastics.

Barrett had worked for his former father in-law consulting for nonprofit organizations to help raise capital and to help them build new facilities. “It has been a wonderful career choice and working with wonderful people,” he says.

As he worked through approximately 30 different nonprofits , he raised substantial funds and helping build new buildings.

Barrett then became interested in more direct services and in the last several years has gotten involved in healthcare. His main focus is to help provide better access to healthcare for people who need those resources and can become more independent by improving the quality of their health.

“There is a huge economic impact in helping them. The top four things communities must have in development are education, healthcare, social services, and community… and these are things (to the nonprofit world) in which we empower our clients helping them to get jobs,” Barrett asserts.

“If someone has a job, they are much more independent and more socially connected to the community as a whole. Some people say becoming a taxpayer (as opposed to dragging the economy) is a huge economic indicator for any kind of community. People have to be healthy and those who fight health issues keeping them from being productive and independent and having a higher level of health have a much better opportunity if they are able to be independent and productive in the community,” Barrett says.

Chattanooga Cares is a primary facility with an infectious disease clinic. Clients are managed in a way that empowers them to be independent. There is a large population of those without access to proper healthcare who are not aware of the assistance available. Barrett’s passion is to bring awareness and educate our community in this matter.

When people lack education and can’t find work, or they don’t have transportation or they are in need of medical attention or even food to eat, Barrett feels they tend to make poor decisions and having access to the necessary things would make a difference in not only their lives, but in our community as a whole.

Barrett says, “We have a clientele of cross spectrum demographics, but mostly our clients are lower income. They may not be able to feed their families one week and we help them get food. They may not be able to pay their mortgage or rent one week, we help them do that. They may have problems with their utilities and we can help them… and if there is substance abuse we help them.”

Barrett has a heart for the HIV clients who neglect their health because of their circumstances. Chattanooga Cares is there to give them hope.

“We want to help them so they can better adhere to their medication which allows them to live more independent lives and, in our case, become less infectious to the community which is our focus. If our clients are adhering to their meds, then our clients are less infectious,” he says.

Though HIV is still incurable, the medications have gotten better over a period of time. Barrett’s main focus is prevention. If someone is HIV positive and he can get them adhering to their medication, he feels they can live a normal life and they will not die of HIV.

“They will have a normal lifestyle and achieve quality of life. Barrett warns that 20 percent of the population is HIV positive and they don’t know they are.”

Many cultures are afraid of being tested for HIV because of the stigma of people associating the disease with behavior.

“Anybody can have a virus or illness and still be a normal human being. There are people who are HIV positive who are in leadership roles in our community and across this country. Everybody knows somebody who is HIV positive or someone who has a family member that is,” Barrett says. “It is not demographic specific anymore and it’s not a death sentence, but you have to know who you are and you have to take care of it.”

One of their roles at Chattanooga Cares is outreach and education which is where Barrett finds his passion.

Creating access to information, access to healthcare, access to the resources people need to be independent and, to empower people to be productive community members is what drives Barrett in this mission.

A most important part of his life is in giving back to the community and working with several nonprofit organizations along with numerous volunteer efforts. Habitat for Humanity and Green Spaces were involvements he cherished as well as working with the Folk School.

His hopes are for people in the community who do give back is that they will give back in a way that inspires them to be better. Barrett witnessed this in his own life and vows that it has been life changing.

“I believe it is better if people are educated and understand their needs and how to get assistance. Just like I believe they need the freedom to choose what is best for them,” he says.

“And, I believe that if everybody is healthy the community does better and the economy of the community is significantly increased by the health of the community.”

jen@jenjeffrey.com


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