Dedicated on May 2, 1998, the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic (NOMC) became the first such health initiative in the United States, addressing the health care needs of musicians and artists, as well as their families, whether they are insured, under insured or uninsured.
Not only do we strive to affect an agenda of wellness in our musician patient population, we encourage our musicians to become advocates for early detection, prevention, and treatment for others facing the same risks.
As the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans has remained a cultural mecca for centuries. Local musicians are a vital resource to New Orleans in terms of its economic viability and vibrant cultural identity. Performers entertain close to 10 million visitors each year. Yet even before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005 many musicians already suffered perpetual economic hardship and poor health as a result of limited access to affordable health care and lifestyle.
In fact, the story of New Orleans musicians has too often been one of tragic, premature death from preventable causes (take for example Buddy Bolden and James Booker). This illustrates problems that many US musicians face: poor health-seeking behaviors and a lack of access to high quality, affordable medical care. With few exceptions, New Orleans musicians are independent contractors working in a cash-based economy, never having a bank account. While the city’s tradition-bearers are celebrated the world over, at home most live hand-to-mouth, outside mainstream social and economic systems. Musicians rarely benefit from employee benefits (in particular health insurance) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not regulate their working environment. They are, quite simply, a class excluded from the American health care delivery system.
Partnered with the LSU Health Network, the NOMC became a local response to the challenging reality that the majority of New Orleans musicians and tradition bearers existed outside of the healthcare system. By evolving a small community clinic to provide culturally competent medical services to a unique group of New Orleans’ entertainers and performers, the NOMC was able to to evolve their patient base from a group unaccustomed to receiving routine medical care to a group who engages in preventative health and health education.
New Orleans Musicians’ Assistance Foundation
The New Orleans Musicians’ Assistance Foundation (NOMAF) emerged in 2005, following the devastating floods of Hurricane Katrina. As a response to the needs of NOMC patients and the local music community, NOMAF was founded as a 501(c)3 non- profit organization to support the primary care provided by the NOMC while expanding its mission to take on cultural issues, such as creating economic opportunities for musicians through its NOMAF Gig Fund (ended in 2015), raising awareness for noise-induced hearing loss during practice, onstage, at festivals and in local venues through the NOMAF Save New Orleans Sounds Program, providing a one-time benevolent payment for musicians facing extreme hardship through The NOMAF Emergency Fund, and hosting community wellness events in and around New Orleans.
Founding of the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic
NOMC : Present Day
Today the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic and Assistance Foundation is directed by Co- Founding Director & Chair Bethany E. Bultman, Co-Founder E. Johann Bultman, Medical Director Dr. Cathi Fontenot, and the LSU Healthcare Network. The NOMC has become an essential medical service due to the lack of a system of care for those without insurance. While ER and Trauma care are available, outpatient services and sick care are inaccessible in New Orleans. There remain access issues with the public hospitals in surrounding communities. For many musicians, the NOMC is their only source of support – whether it be medical, emotional, financial, or social.
To learn more about the NOMC’s place in the current New Orleans health care community see us featured in the winning City Accelerator video: WATCH HERE.