“We’re going strong. We’re seeing patients, beginning new initiatives all the time. We’re stable. We’re here and it’s amazing that Pulaski has this wonderful thing that touches people’s lives every day in the most important of ways.”
Free Clinic of Pulaski County
By MIKE WILLIAMS
Almost 36 years after it began in 1982, the Free Clinic of Pulaski County is going strong, and reaching out to members of the community in need of quality health care.
The clinic is dedicated to the belief that everyone should have access to healthcare services. Its mission is to provide primary medical, nursing and mental health care, medication and health education to those in Pulaski County who do not have the resources to obtain these basic healthcare needs.
According to Linda Frank, Executive Director of the clinic and Jim Kelly, President of its Board of Directors, many people have the wrong idea about the clinic.
“All kinds of people think the Free Clinic is just for the destitute,” said Frank. That’s not the case, she said.
“Maybe a patient can afford to pay something, but we never charge. Ever,” exclaimed Frank. “We ask for donations and that money keeps the lights on. But our services are free to anyone in Pulaski County who meet our eligibility requirements.”
Located at 25 Fourth Street N.W. in Pulaski, the Free Clinic is open to any Pulaski County resident between the ages of 18 and 64 who have no health insurance whatsoever.
“We serve adult residents of the county,” Frank said, noting that young people under 18 can obtain health care through FAMIS and adults over 64 can get Medicare.
Those applying to be patients must have a household income at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline.
Applicants for healthcare services must provide proof of their identity, proof of residence and proof of income.
Those applying for care can call the clinic at 980-0922 to schedule an appointment for screening prior to becoming a patient.
When you arrive for your appointment, make sure you have brought the following:
-Identification: Driver’s license or another official photo ID
-Proof of your Pulaski County residency
-Proof of income for the entire household
-Last 30 days of pay stubs, if employed
-Income records if self-employed
-Most recent Federal income tax return. If you did not file taxes, a form will be provided by the clinic
-Letter showing unemployment benefits, disability benefits and/or Social Security benefits.
“Currently we serve about 650 patients at any given time,” said Frank. “That translates into about 3,000 patient visits a year in which patients see a practitioner.”
A variety of services are available to patients of the clinic.
Primary Care – The clinic provides continuing, comprehensive medical care on a day-to-day basis from a physician or nurse practitioner.
Behavioral Health – The clinic’s Radford University School of Nursing Initiative is an interprofessional, integrated approach to healthcare that has changed lives at the clinic since 2014. The program, which operates on Mondays at the clinic, uses a collaborative approach to address the needs of patients identified with both chronic diseases and mental / behavioral health issues. Psychologist Claire Dalrymple provides mental health counseling that one day each week.
Pharmaceutical Services – Although the Free Clinic does not have its own pharmacy, it participates in the Medication Assistance Programs supported by many of the pharmaceutical manufacturers. The clinic has one staff position dedicated to securing medications for patients at no cost.
Hospital / Laboratory Services – All tests, such as x-ray, EKG, or laboratory services that are requested by physicians and nurse practitioners are provided to patients free of charge.
“We’re always trying to fund little initiatives and looking for people to know of these programs and to help fund them,” said Frank.
One such new initiative is called the Bridge Program, which helps provide medications to patients. Martin’s Pharmacy in Pulaski is helping with that initiative.
“Eddie and Willie Hale’s hearts are in Pulaski,” Kelly noted.
Kelly, who began his volunteer work with the clinic 14 years ago as a screener, added that an initiative to provide dental services is in the works as well.
“One of the most amazing things about this place is that somehow we manage to staff the clinic with professional medical providers – Monday through Friday,” Frank said. “It’s the best network right now that we’ve had in a long time of good people who are willing to work for the clinic.”
“We have an extensive network of specialists we refer people out to so, no matter what’s wrong with you we can send you to the right specialist and get it taken care of like a normal everyday doctor’s office that anyone might go to,” Frank added.
“It’s surprising the number of patients that end up at the University of Virginia hospital,” Kelly interjected.
“We’re blessed with the people we have,” Kelly said of the clinic’s staff and volunteers.
“It’s the best staff now that is possible for us to have, and people can feel that when they come in. It’s wonderful,” added Frank.
Noting the Board of Supervisors has been very generous with county funding to the clinic, Kelly added the clinic is still happy to receive donations.
“The problem with non-profits is your revenue stream is never guaranteed,” he said.
Major supporters of the clinic include LewisGale Hospital Pulaski, Carilion Health System, New River Valley Health Foundation, Randolph House of Pulaski Foundation, Virginia Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, C.E. Richardson Foundation, Dublin United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church Benevolent Foundation, First United Methodist Church of Pulaski, Hillman Living Trust, Presbytery of the Peaks and the County of Pulaski.
According to Frank, who just completed her second year directing the clinic, the facility makes the most of the donations it receives.
“It’s pretty impressive what these folks can do,” Frank stated. “For every dollar donated here, we provide $12 of medical services. This is due to the work we’ve put in to develop these networks and referral services, how little we pay our practitioners, and because we have so many volunteer practitioners. We put it all in a blender, and it’s pretty amazing.”
Pulaski County Free Clinic Officers and Board of Directors:
Jim Kelly, President and Director
Yancey E. Lockhart, PharmD, Rph, President-Elect and Director
Terrie Turner, Secretary and Director
Carolyn Puckett, Treasurer and Director
Rick Mansell, DDS, Past-President and Director
John Knarr, MD, Clinic Medical Director
Linda Shepherd, CNO
Rev. Melissa Smith