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Sharing the Season — local free clinics need your help to help others

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Leticia Stumbo-Fernandez looks through the lens of the phoropter to determine what her prescription will be for her eyeglasses. She shakes her head and Dr. C. Mark Brittain changes the lens to give her a more clearer view.

“Two,” she says after option one was blurry.

Stumbo-Fernandez spends about 20 minutes being viewed by the Salisbury optometrist, who volunteers his time at the Good Shepherd’s Clinic. The clinic, which operates from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. out of First Ministry Center (the old YMCA building), 229 N. Fulton St., provides treatment for minor illnesses, adult preventive medical care, as well as dental and eye exams.

Founded in 1994, the faith-based free clinic has provided services over the years to those 18 and older who do not have insurance or who don’t qualify for Medicaid or Medicare and more recently the Affordable Care Act.

Less than half a mile away at 315 Mocksville Ave. is Community Care Clinic of Rowan County, where the uninsured and low-income residents of Rowan County can go to receive free treatment of dental and medical care as well as prescription assistance. Many of the patients have no health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare and some qualify for disability benefits, but have very little to no money to pay for prescriptions or other minor medical needs.

The clinic, recognizable to many as “the one with the angel out front,” has been a Rowan County fixture since 1996 when it was established.

Neither clinic would be able to sustain its services without contributions from the community and countless volunteers.

Each year around the holidays the Post compiles a master wish list from nonprofit and human services organizations in and around Rowan County. The list includes large items like rental space, vehicles and smaller needs such as office supplies.

It’s a way for those in the community to hopefully be able to meet those needs so that these organizations can continue serving those in need.

Patient care

Although her husband works, Leticia Stumbo-Fernandez says through interpreter Graciela Nunez they still have no insurance.

“Insurance is expensive,” she said.

She was able to receive an eye exam and an opportunity for eyewear.

“I’m very grateful,” Stumbo-Fernandez said.

“The clinic mostly tracks those with diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases because those are conditions and diseases that need to be treated daily,” said Director Jean Allen.

On a typical Thursday night, the clinic may see up to 20 patients. The clinic serves patients on a first-come, first-serve basis and may see at least two new patients each week.

Many of the people who visit the clinic are non-English speakers and without interpreters it can really be hard to serve the clients.

“We would love for people to partner with us in reaching these indigent patients who really need to manage and maintain their health on a daily basis,” Allen said.

There is an intake process and volunteers like Misty Crook help this well-oiled machine continue with few hiccups. Crook volunteers at the clinic after settling her family in at home and after a full day of her own.

She volunteers as the clinic’s receptionist. She also assists wherever she can to help speed the process along.

Patients are seen while others wait for their turn to see the doctor, receive prescriptions or receive an explanation of how to properly take their medications.

Allen remarked how the clinic handles an eight-hour workday of care for patients in a few hours.

“We have saved the county an estimated $1.75 million in medical care,” she said.

The numbers

Rowan County is home to over 138,000 residents and more than 17 percent live below the federal poverty level and over 20,000 of them are uninsured.

Last year, Community Care Clinic of Rowan dispensed 26,250 prescriptions. It’s a lot of what the clinic does — provide medications to patients who simply can’t afford them.

The Mocksville Avenue clinic has provided for 2,795 medical visits and 1,700 dental visits, which represents over $4.2 million worth of free care.

While the clinic does employ seven full- or part-time employees, it’s a success because of the countless volunteers.

The clinic is now gearing up for Guardian Angel fund drive, which is a major income producer for the clinic. Community partners contribute different levels of giving that in turn helps provide services to those in need. For example, a $40 contribution will pay for one medical visit and $150 will cover the cost of a half day of dental hygiene clinic.

The clinic operates Monday through Friday and every other Tuesday night.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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