Mission: Possible – The Clearwater Free Clinic
“Tweeners,” some call them – those in need of medical treatment, caught between a rock of limited income and a hard place of no insurance.
For most of us, a lifeline exists when sick or injured. Without a second thought, we can visit a clinic, hospital or doctor with costs covered by health insurance, Medicare or our own financial wherewithal. For some less fortunate, however, the choices are brutal: endure serious illness or pain without treatment, face formidable medical bills or bear the indignity of being regarded as a charity case.
However, there’s another option few people know about – the Clearwater Free Clinic (CFC), a medical facility that’s existed in our community since 1977. It’s stayed out of the public eye largely because CFC’s patients don’t pay for services and it receives no government funding. The corresponding dependence upon private donors and grants leaves no room for expensive PR campaigns.
Ninety-two percent of our donations go directly toward programs and treatments for patients. There is a small paid staff and the clinic depends greatly on the generosity of about 150 volunteers. Doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical companies and others donate their services or products.
The common profile of a patient at the CFC is one who has a job but doesn’t make enough money to pay for health care. That includes former well-to-do business owners who have fallen on difficult times, single moms, victims of layoffs or job cuts.
Those in the waiting room are like any patients at regular clinics or hospitals. Any notion that those seeking help at the CFC are freeloaders or derelicts is unfounded and the facility is clean and run professionally – it’s not some dingy clinic or soup kitchen.
Understandably, patients with whom I spoke preferred anonymity. An older gent who said he once owned three successful New York City restaurants remarked that he didn’t want friends or former business associates knowing about his current misfortune and to feel sorry for him or consider him a loser. A woman remarked about a long career selling real estate, but when home sales plummeted during the economic downturn, she spiraled into a financial hole from which she still hasn’t fully recovered.
Among the long list of services provided include office visits with doctors, nurses or nurse practitioners, cardiology, dermatology, pediatrics, gynecology, urology, ophthalmology, nutritional counseling and physical therapy. Some diagnostic tests are conducted onsite and others at participating sources. Medications for CFC patients are prepared by staff one at a time on the premises.
And that’s where you can help “tweeners” get back on their feet. Patients make a small donation after receiving services and medications. Nearly all of CFC’s support stems from financial donations, donated goods and community partners.
Today, the Clinic is located at 1218 Court Street in Clearwater, Florida and operates in a renovated, 11,000 square-foot health care facility that has the capability to treat thousands of uninsured patients in the community every year.
Consider becoming a lifeline by donating a piece of your time or pocketbook. As thousands of others in our community, you never know when the hand reaching out for help might be yours.
The Clinic depends on donations. To donate, visit www.clearwaterfreeclinic.org/donate
To become a volunteer, visit www.clearwaterfreeclinic.org/volunteer
Clearwater Free Clinic
1218 Court Street, Clearwater, FL 33756
Officially established in 1977, the Clearwater Free Clinic (CFC) was incorporated in a rented home, run by local doctors volunteering their time to help fill an evident need for low-income, uninsured families in the community to be able to access quality health care. The Clinic, a volunteer driven non-profit, non-government medical facility, provides primary health care at no cost to those who do not qualify for government assistance and who cannot afford private medical care. The mission of the Clearwater Free Clinic is to deliver comprehensive medical care to uninsured families through volunteerism and community partnerships.
The Clinic in 2018 grew by leaps and bounds, having provided almost 15,000 patient visits and $5.7 million in program services, $4.8 million of which were donated. To name just a few, the Clinic’s services include primary care, medications, lab work, mental health care, specialty care and patient education. This growth has been possible thanks to tireless volunteers, partners in the community along with thousands of generous donors who continue to fund our privately owned, nongovernment, nonprofit free clinic. The Clearwater Free Clinic works closely with many entities in the community including LabCorp, Baycare, Homeless Empowerment Program, and more to deliver comprehensive health care to the under-served in the community.
Video, photos and information courtesy of the Clearway Free Clinic; Feature photo by Jenny Cepeda on UnSplash