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Free Clinic to begin services in spring

October 26, 2006

River Falls has a variety of health care options for its residents, including the River Falls Area Hospital, River Falls Medical Clinic and Pierce Country Reproductive Health Services.

Unfortunately, a void still exists in options that are available, and not everyone in River Falls and the surrounding area can afford the health care they need to live an optimum lifestyle.

River Falls Medical Clinic has decided to fill that void by offering totally free health services one night a week, beginning April 2007.

“People use free clinics broadly,” Kinnickinnic Health Foundation Executive Director Heather Logelin said. “This is actually going to be a totally free clinic with no sliding fee for those who qualify for these medical services.”

Though the clinic doesn’t turn anyone away, guidelines and qualifications do exist for patients in need of free care.

“The target population is low-income and uninsured folks from Pierce and St. Croix counties with no other health care alternative,” Logelin said.

She also said the majority of the patients are 185 percent below the federal poverty level with a yearly income of $37,000 for a family of four.

To ensure the highest quality care possible, physicians, nurses and social workers have already volunteered their professional services.

“The physicians will be donating one night a week [Tuesdays], and expect to see 20-30 patients a night,” Logelin said.

Though some physicians and nurses have already volunteered their time, one of the biggest issues in offering free care is maintaining volunteers.

Logelin said residents and students who this issue resonates with should check out the clinic’s Web site.

“A registration form is now on the clinic’s Web site at www.freeclinicpiercestcroix.org, and those who apply can expect to be contacted sometime after the first of next year,” Logelin said.

The other main challenge in running a free clinic is the issue of funding. The money for this project primarily comes from grants, along with donations from the hospital and fundraisers.

The budget to run this clinic successfully is between $100,000 and $125,000 a year, though she said this is a preliminary estimate.

It is a challenge, but Logelin isn’t too worried about financial issues.

“I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but it’s been fun fundraising because people really care about this issue,” she said.

One of the fundraisers Logelin spoke of was held Oct. 14. The Kinnickinnic Valley Health and Education Foundation put together a Harvest Moon Barn Dance, which included dinner, an auction and a dance at the Bjerstedt Farm in River Falls. About 400 people turned up at this event, raising about $50,000 for the free clinic.  Some members from the UWRF Student Support Services volunteered at this event, and have also decided to put together some fundraisers of their own.

“The students who are part of the SSS leadership team came up with the idea of a fundraiser for the free clinic,” SSS Advisor Rose Rude said.

Though nothing is set in stone, the leadership team has come up with a couple of ideas on how to raise money for this cause.

“Right now they are planning on doing a change jar drive, putting big pickle jars in the residence halls and public spots around campus and town,” Rude said. “The goal is to raise $500 for the clinic.”

SSS also plans to host a spaghetti dinner in early November, but the details of this fundraiser have not been decided.

Students and residents will be notified of the dinner when the date is finalized.

The funding raised aids the free clinic in offering a variety of different services, but the clinic does not offer dental or mental health care.

No specialists are on site, but the clinic can provide referrals if a patient requests.

Patients in need of reproductive health should contact Pierce County Reproductive Health Services, where the majority of women can get a waiver that allows them reproductive care for a small fee.

Although students will not be turned away from the clinic, it is expected that they have exhausted the wide array of options that UWRF provides for health care.

Students can read more about these services at http://www.uwrf.edu/student-health-service/.

“We know that there are a myriad of health problems out there,” Logelin said. “We are trying to fill gaps and provide services that aren’t provide elsewhere.”