Free-health-clinic set to open this month
April 19, 2007
In 2004, about 272,000 Wisconsin residents were uninsured for the entire year, according to a Jan. 9 report released by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services. With fundraising efforts, uninsured and low-income residents of Pierce and St. Croix counties will now have a place to go for basic medical care.
Located in Unit 2 of the River Falls Medical Clinic, the free clinic will be open every Tuesday night, beginning April 24, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. No appointments will be taken, but patients will be served on a first-come, first-serve basis, with registration beginning at 5 p.m. On average, the clinic’s staff aims to serve 20 to 30 patients each night.
To be eligible for the clinic’s services, patients must meet two criteria. First, they must be uninsured and second, they must have a household income at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. For a household of one, this is $18,888 per year; for a household of four, $38,202 per year.
Sophomore Ashley Vogler said she didn’t know about the clinic until recently, but was very supportive of the clinic’s mission.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Vogler said. “If it allows people with no or low income to still receive medical advice if needed, I’m for it.”
The clinic will provide health education and basic medical assistance colds, ear infections and joint pain, but will not duplicate services provided by county health departments, such as reproductive health services, dental care, immunizations, narcotics or mental health services.
Mary Conroy-Johnson, chairperson of the free clinic, said they expect to get patients from many different backgrounds.
“We aren’t specifically targeting anyone,” Conroy-Johnson said. “We’ll take them regardless of status, from any walk of life, as long as they meet the criteria.”
The plans for the clinic were in progress long before now and UW-River Falls has been involved from the beginning, Student Health Services Director Alice Reilly-Myklebust said.
“We’ve had many conversations with planners about the free clinic related to students,” Reilly-Myklebust said.
Back in February, UWRF students raised nearly $700 for the free clinic. Members of Student Support Services (SSS) raised money during the fall semester through bake sales, coin jars and a spaghetti dinner.
They presented a check to Conroy-Johnson and Jill Slaikeu, vice-chairperson of the free clinic on Feb. 27, according to a UWRF Public Affairs news release written by Denise Burce.
SSS Advisor Rose Rude said, originally, someone in an SSS member’s family could have used a free clinic growing up.
The unidentified member was very passionate about the issue and other SSS members agreed with her, which was originally how SSS got involved, Rude said.
“The SSS Leadership team felt it was very important to give back to the community and we were seeking opportunities to do this,” Rude said. “[The free clinic] is a safety net for people both in the community and for students.”
Conroy-Johnson said she was impressed with the work ethic displayed by the students that helped with the fundraising.
“They did a bang-up job,” Conroy-Johnson said. “It was very moving to see young kids working like that.”
While monetary donations are always accepted, volunteers are just as needed. The volunteer registry can be found on the clinic’s Web site and a list of positions from nursing care professionals, responsible for assisting healthcare providers, to greeters, responsible for meeting patients at the front doors of the clinic.
Students who can’t provide monetary donations are encouraged to contribute through volunteering or fundraising, Conroy-Johnson said. In February, all proceeds from the Third Annual Tom Linehan Memorial Open Doubles Pool and Euchre Tournament went to benefit the clinic. There is also the possibility of a pancake breakfast in the near future, Conroy-Johnson said.
All volunteers will go through a short orientation and training session and will need to be able to provide references since they’ll be “working with a very vulnerable population,” Conroy-Johnson said.
Refreshments will also be provided by and for volunteers.
Anyone interested in donating money, volunteering their time or learning more call Volunteer Coordinator Mary Steele at (715) 307-3949 or visit the clinic’s Web site, www.freeclinicpiercestcroix.org. Anyone and everyone who wants to help is welcome to do so, Conroy-Johnson said.
“There are lots of ways to contribute,” Conroy-Johnson said. “Time is just as valuable [as money].”