Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

Today’s article is written by John Wilson, former editor of the Rappahannock Record.

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Our Northern Neck-Middlesex Free Health Clinic

Chris is self employed, his wife works and their income averages $1,500 a month. He suffers from diabetes, coronary artery disease and hypertension. Through provider visits and medications filled at the Northern Neck-Middlesex Free Health Clinic (NNMFHC) he is able to manage his conditions and continue working.

Katherine had avoided seeing a dentist for years, due to long-held fears and a lack of funds. The clinic helped her overcome her anxieties and saw her through five appointments over a two-month period. For a total investment of $125 she received $2,115 worth of dental care.

Susan works full time and makes about $1,400 per month. At the clinic she is able to see a provider and obtain medicines to manage her chronic conditions. A diabetic with hyperlipidemia, her medicines alone would take half her gross income every month if she purchased them on her own. Instead she is able to pay for other living expenses—and keep working.

Mike was discharged from the hospital following a stroke, came directly to the clinic, enrolled as a new patient, was seen by a provider, had prescriptions filled and is scheduled for the Dental Clinic as well as follow-up care.

These are just a handful of the 1,740 individuals who were helped last year at the NNMFHC, a community-based, volunteer-driven organization. The clinic was created more than a quarter of a century ago by concerned citizens who recognized that thousands of their neighbors—those with low incomes and no insurance—did not have access to health care. They formed a one-night-a-week clinic in borrowed space at the Lancaster County Health Department.

Today the clinic operates five days and two evenings a week at its 10,500-square-foot headquarters in Kilmarnock. The building houses a medical clinic, dental clinic and pharmacy. Specialty clinics focus on well-woman care, diabetes and chronic pain. Outreach services are available in Middlesex and Westmoreland counties.

Last October 6 the Clinic celebrated its 25th anniversary and observed that over the years nearly 15,000 individuals had used clinic services and more than $100 million worth of health care had been provided. Had the clinic not been in existence, these thousands of people would not have received any care at all, short of emergency rooms; would not have gotten a handle on managing their chronic conditions; would not have been able to remain in the workforce and would not have had a health care home.

The community made all that happen. It still does.

This year, with Virginia’s expansion of Medicaid, the clinic is realigning its services to continue fulfilling its mission of providing health care to those who ordinarily lack access to it. Health care comes with a complicated web of various types and levels of insurances, co-pays, and deductibles, and with the challenge of finding a provider in this rural region. Even for the insured, it can be too expensive for those on limited incomes.

The clinic, committed to health care accessibility, consequently is accepting those newly enrolled in Medicaid, as well as those who remain uninsured. The uninsured include area workers who don’t have insurance through their jobs and who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford health insurance on their own.

The dental clinic at the NNMFHC operates a little differently, since the options are so few for so many. For a flat fee of $30 to $60 per visit, depending on income, patients can get hundreds or thousands of dollars’ worth of dental work done. Medicaid and Medicare recipients are welcome as well as the un- and under-insured.

Joan Ball has used both the medical clinic and dental clinic but might have missed out on both—and much more—had she not gone through a cancer scare two years ago and found the clinic. She’s become an enthusiastic clinic supporter, raising funds and advocating on her own, and was one of several patients to speak during the 25th anniversary event.

She found the clinic after being diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Her job at the time did not provide health insurance and the diagnosis was overwhelming. Over the next several weeks the clinic became her health care home and “put me in all the right places,” she said, including a breast surgeon and a biopsy to confirm cancerous tumors in her lymph nodes. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation followed.

The experience changed me in many ways,” she said. “I’m more compassionate, humble, understanding. Now I understand what it’s really like for women who go through this.

“We don’t know what life holds from day to day, but whatever it holds, keep your faith and pray, knowing God will answer.”

Thanks go to the hundreds of volunteers and thousands of donors who have kept the clinic running for the past quarter of a century. Support is still needed for this health care home and the thousands who use it. The clinic operates entirely on gifts from the heart, and with its volunteer support every $1 yields $8.85 worth of care.

Whether donor or volunteer, or both, thank you for your life-giving investment in the community. If you’d like to contribute, volunteer, or ask questions, call 435-0575, visit 51 William B. Graham Court, Kilmarnock, 22482, or www.nnmfhc.org.