Lack of insurance or full coverage can keep a patient from needed medical care, but three charity clinics in west Kentucky ensure the working poor can get treatments.
Angels Clinic of Murray serves patients in Calloway County. Mayfield’s Grace Clinic serves Graves County, and Paducah’s St. Nicholas Clinic serves McCracken, Marshall, Ballard, Livingston, Hickman, Fulton and Carlisle counties in Kentucky and Massac County, Ill. Angels and St. Nicholas accept patients at 200 percent of the national poverty level while Grace accepts patients earning 185 percent of the poverty level.
As children are eligible for the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program, clinics only treat adults below Medicare eligibility. All patients must provide proof of employment and income. Patients with Medicaid are not eligible as they may receive treatment from providers accepting this federal insurance. OB/GYN patients are referred to their county’s health department for free or reduced-cost annual exams and obstetric treatment so clinics do not duplicate an available service.
Melinda Watson, office manager at St. Nicholas, said her clinic opened in 1994. In 2010, the clinic saw 5,472 medical visits. Watson said the number increased due to layoffs and moving some workers from full-time status to part-time.
“We see some colds,” Watson said, “But most patients come in with chronic illnesses. We see a lot of diabetes, high blood pressure, issues with cholesterol and heart disease.”
To finance operations, the clinic works through pharmaceutical manufacturers to purchase or be given medicines through their indigent drug programs. Many doctors and nurses volunteer their time and services. Paducah hospitals may offer tests at a free or reduced cost. Funding comes from private donations, churches and the United Way.
Beth McClendon, director of Grace Clinic, said her office serves similar people and sees mainly chronic conditions. Last year, the clinic performed 449 consultations, increasing from 285 in 2008. McClendon attributed the increase to the economic downturn. Grace opened its doors in 2001. She said support comes from Mayfield-area nonprofit foundations, civic groups, churches, private donations and the Jackson Purchase Medical Center, which provides the building the clinic uses for its operations.
“We rely on volunteers, and don’t pay doctors and nurses,” McClendon said. “We wouldn’t exist without churches and civic clubs, and are able to get some medicines through patient assistance programs.”
Patient Valerie Cox of Mayfield said she had no idea what she would do without Grace Clinic. She said she comes to the clinic for high blood pressure, a thyroid disorder and anxiety. Self-employed as a house cleaner at 50, she lost health care when she lost her job.
“I had nowhere to go and couldn’t afford a doctor,” Cox said. “They worked with an optometrist to get my glasses updated, and the Lions Club helped me get glasses.”
Nissa Wilson, office manager of Angels Community Clinic, said her office opened in 2000 and serves about 800 patients annually. The clinic provides health care and medicine for patients and boasts a dental clinic for those needing oral care.
“We get some private donations, but about 90 percent of our income comes from proceeds from the Angels Attic Thrift Shop,” Wilson said.
The thrift shop accepts donated wares, repairs what it can, cleans garments and recycles unsellable items.
“We’ll take any volunteers we can get,” Wilson said. “I can always use more people with medical experience, from pharmacy techs to lab technicians to nurses.”
To volunteer at a clinic, whether with medical experience or to donate labor or clerical time, or to offer a donation, call St. Nicholas at 270-415-0467, Grace Clinic at 270-251-9885 or Angels Clinic at 270-759-2223.
Contact Alan Reed, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8658.