updated: 10/14/2011 7:42:55 AM
Efforts to provide health care to the uninsured in one Indiana county are receiving a boost. North Central Health Services of Lafayette has awarded a $900,000 grant to Montgomery County Free Clinic Inc. to convert an existing Crawfordsville building into a health care center. NCHS has also issued a challenge to the clinic's board, which could push the total of the effort to $1.2 million.
October 14, 2011
CRAWFORDSVILLE, IN — North Central Health Services (NCHS) awarded a $900,000 matching grant to Montgomery County Free Clinic, Inc. (MCFreeClinic) to purchase and renovate an existing building in Crawfordsville to operate a free clinic to provide health care services for uninsured residents of the county.
In awarding the grant, NCHS of Lafayette challenged the MCFreeClinic Board to raise $300,000 which NCHS will match $3 for each $1, for a total of $1.2 million. A strategic fundraising plan is underway to create and endow the free clinic, which will be named in honor of Dr. Mary Ludwig, the Crawfordsville pediatrician who spearheaded creation of the Well Baby Clinic of Christian Nursing Service (CNS) in Crawfordsville in 1968.
“After many years of hard work by scores of dedicated people, we sought funding from NCHS to establish the free clinic,” said Bill Doemel, president of the MCFreeClinic Board of Directors. “NCHS met this request with a challenge to our community: raise $300,000 for this new facility and NCHS will match that amount with $900,000. During difficult economic times, this is indeed a challenge. But we are convinced our community will generously meet this challenge in order to improve access to quality health care for Montgomery County residents in need while also improving the community’s overall health and quality of life.”
The creation of this free clinic builds on the long-standing work done by the Christian Nursing Service (CNS). Like its Well Baby Clinic, currently housed at Milligan Memorial Church on Mill Street, the free clinic will be supported by private funds, not tax dollars.
CNS has operated a free clinic for the uninsured at the Milligan Memorial Church since 1968 utilizing an extensive network of nurses, doctors, and citizen volunteers. The ongoing need for maintenance and privacy at the existing facility, the increasing complexity of health care needs, and the loss of the organization’s volunteer physician led organizers to seek a new home and a new model for the clinic.
The free clinic will offer free basic medical and dental services to uninsured residents (both children and adults) who meet income guidelines. Residents who meet 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines ($29,140 for a family of two, $44,100 for a family of four, and $59,060 for a family of six) will be eligible to receive services.
“Every day I encounter children and adults who simply do not have access to medical care,” said Christine Amidon, RN, BSN, who is President of the Board of Directors of Christian Nursing Service. “This generous grant from NCHS will enable us to provide acute and preventive health and dental services to people in our county who are currently going without care. We have a team of medical, nursing, and other professionals who are ready to put this plan into action.”
The Dr. Mary Ludwig Free Clinic will be the fourth Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) facility in the state, joining clinics located in Bloomington, Columbus and Indianapolis. VIM is a national organization that promotes and supports free medical clinics that are sprinkled across the United States. VIM brings a “Culture of Caring” to the clinic. "Culture of Caring" recognizes the strengths of those in need and respects their dignity. For more information about VIM, see http://www.volunteersinmedicine.org/.
Following the retirement of its clinic physician, Dr. Keith Baird, Christian Nursing Service knew it had to pursue new alternatives. Community leader Suanne Milligan headed a committee of CNS and community members to explore different options and make recommendations. The group recommended the formation of a new group to seek a building and agreement with healthcare professionals and Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health–Crawfordsville. Representatives of CNS joined members of the healthcare community to form this new organization, Montgomery County Free Clinic, Inc.
After meetings with representatives from the hospital and with healthcare professionals, the MCFreeClinic Board concluded that there was sufficient support to seek funds for a free clinic. This clinic will continue the mission of Christian Nursing Services in partnership with physicians, dentists, nurses, healthcare professionals and members of the community. The clinic will also be home to Meals-on-Wheels.
“I am thrilled that NCHS has recognized the importance of delivering high-quality primary care to our uninsured residents,” said Dr. John Roberts, MD. “A healthy and educated populace is critical to the well-being of any community. In The Dr. Mary Ludwig Free Clinic, we plan to provide medical care and, perhaps more importantly, health education. I look forward to seeing the Montgomery County community come together once again to help us fulfill our mission.”
The idea of a clinic gained momentum last year when the MCFreeClinic Board reached agreement with Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health-Crawfordsville to provide up to $100,000 in supportive services to the clinic and to provide electronic medical record software for the volunteer physicians. This agreement assured that patients of the free clinic would receive any necessary tests and follow-up care that may be needed.
“Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health-Crawfordsville is excited about the opening of The Dr. Mary Ludwig Free Clinic and is proud to be a part of this process,” said Nancy Sennett, Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Nursing. “This is a part of the calling and matches the vision and mission of the Sisters of St. Francis, our sponsoring organization and the Franciscan Alliance — to make sure that all people have access to quality health care in the communities we live in and serve.”
The Montgomery County Health Department will continue the program of vaccinations and initiatives to provide education and support for those with chronic disease like diabetes, obesity, smoking and coronary artery disease. County Health Nurse Rebecca Lang said the Health Department has been part of this initiative since 2007 because it believes that a physically health community drives a healthy economy.
“The Montgomery County Health Department will support The Dr. Mary Ludwig Free Clinic in all possible ways.” Lang said. “It will be most rewarding to refer patients to this local clinic instead of referring them to health services in a distant county. Most individuals who come to the Health Department needing health services are those who are working and can't afford the health insurance premiums or who are working at a part-time job that doesn't offer insurance.”
The MCFreeClinic Board also created partnerships with the dental community to provide dental care as a central part of the free clinic’s work. Dr. Janet Rucker, local dentist, has been a part of the MCFreeClinic since its inception. “Crawfordsville dentists will be able to offer basic dental services through the clinic to fulfill the Oath for Dentistry taken upon graduation, ‘to enrich our lives in the service of mankind,’” Dr. Rucker said. “We are all excited to have this opportunity to stress the importance of good dental health in overall general health.”
NCHS was founded in 1984 to serve as the parent company of a family of corporations, which included Lafayette Home Hospital, Home Hospital Foundation, and Service Frontiers Incorporated. Today, NCHS operates River Bend Hospital, a private in-patient psychiatric hospital, and provides capital grants to not-for-profit organizations serving Benton, Carroll, Clinton, Fountain, Montgomery, Tippecanoe, Warren and White counties in Indiana. Grants are awarded to organizations for projects that relate to health and healthy communities.
“Christian Nursing Service has improved the lives of children and adults in our community for more than 40 years,” Doemel said. “In these tough economic times, even more of our citizens are without health insurance than were in 1968. There is a greater need both for health care and for health education. Thanks to the generosity of NCHS, the Montgomery County community has the opportunity to meet those needs with a free clinic.”
Source: Montgomery County Free Clinic Inc.