Free Clinic now two years old

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 Messenger photo by Renee Gannon
The Madison County Health Partners board and volunteers gather at St. Patrick’s Parish Hall in London to celebrate the second anniversary of the free health clinic, which operates in the professional office building next to the Madison County Hospital Emergency Room.

Good things happen when good people come together for good causes.

The Madison County Health Partners (MCHP) celebrated that fact with a two-year anniversary dessert on Aug. 1 in London. The event paid tribute to the volunteers whose contributions play a vital role in the clinic’s success.

Located at 210 N. Main St. in London in the professional office building next to the Madison County Hospital Emergency Room, the free clinic provides healthcare to uninsured residents of Madison County. Clinics are held on most Mondays and are staffed by medical professionals, social workers and community members offering spiritual guidance. All staffers are volunteers with the exception of Director Melissa Canney.

“When the board of director’s was formed in the beginning, we wondered if people would use the clinic, but the need became apparent on Day One when we opened our doors. Then there was no doubt,” said Canney. “Right from the beginning, we saw anywhere from 18 to 25 patients in one session. Now the clinic has a waiting list.”

State Rep. Chris Widener, who has volunteered at the clinic, said, “The majority of the folks in Madison County who use the clinic are not chronic takers of handouts. They are merely people who are going through transition.”

Canney said most of the clinic’s patients have jobs, but the companies they work for do not provide healthcare.

While the clinic has met its main goal to provide a place where people without basic healthcare can get help, it has a space issue.

“Sometimes we run into a problem where we have the volunteers but we don’t have the office space,” Canney said.

Board member Twyla McNamara commented, “We’ve had a good start and we’ve helped a lot of people. I’d like to see the program expanded to where we could see more people during the week, and I would like to see the clinic provide more services.”

This past year, the clinic’s roster of volunteers numbered 94 and, combined, they provided approximately 1,500 hours of service.

“If you were to put a dollar value on the hours alone, you can see that the amount would be pretty significant,” Canney said.

Widener commended all the volunteers for their time, and stated on behalf of local elected officials, “We appreciate what you all have done and the way that you care for the people of your community.”

He presented a special award to Beth Fordyce, a pharmacist at Madison County Hospital, who volunteered at 42 clinics and dispensed approximately 1,882 prescriptions in the past year.

Widener praised Fordyce for “her conscientious hard work and contributions to the community and for her willingness to give the time and energy to make the world a better place.”

“Beth works full-time and then comes to the clinic and donates her time. She is very knowledgeable,” Canney added.

In addition to Fordyce, special recognition was given to Ruth Kennedy, Pat Johnson, Kathy Baker, Ruth Keen, Dr. Jack Starr, and the Rev. Lynn Shunk for volunteering the most time during the past year. Fred Cole of Madison County Hospital and Barbara Tope of Ministry for Community also were recognized for their contributions.

Linda Gillespie, who provides social services for the clinic, says she volunteers her time because she wants to contribute to the community that she lives in.

“It’s optional for a patient to see a social worker, but sometimes we can lead them to other types of community services,” she said.

“This clinic would not be in existence today if it were not for a very caring and giving community who has donated financially as well as provided many goods and services in-kind,” said Canney, who then asked for a round of applause for everyone.

The spotlight also was turned on Canney, who McNamara described as an indispensible part of the clinic’s success.

Dr. Jack Starr said, “I am a real advocate for the clinic, and I can tell you that this clinic could not survive without Melissa.”

Canney said her two years with the clinic have been very fulfilling.

“I get to work at a job where it is obvious that people need the help and healthcare benefits that we provide for free. I get to work with giving people who are generous, people who do not want to be recognized in the community, but just want to donate money, time or skills. And I get to see this on a daily basis. It’s very gratifying.”

For more information about the free clinic, call 740-845-7286.

A Friend’s House has served Madison County since 2001. Earlier this summer, due to financial shortfalls, the organization temporarily closed its shelter for domestic violence victims. Fundraisers like the tour of homes are designed to get the doors back open, said Director Sue Ellen Hughes.

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