By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
When the Family Community Clinic at St. Joseph Church in Butchertown opened its doors, its intent was to offer free, quality health care to the poor and uninsured. Four years later, the clinic has treated more than 4,000 patients.
Since the clinic opened, the Affordable Care Act has brought insurance to many who previously were unable to obtain proper coverage — but not everyone. There are still 100,000 people in Jefferson County alone who are uninsured, Becky Montague, the clinic’s executive director, said in a recent interview at the clinic.
In the last year, the patient volume at the clinic has increased by 79 percent, she said.
Among those patients are the parents of Alberto Martinez
Martinez’ parents, who are elderly, came to this country from Cuba and speak very little English. They do not have health insurance and rely on the clinic to provide basic health care, including flu shots, Martinez said.
He stopped by the clinic before operating hours recently and was welcomed by Montague with a warm smile.
He needed to picked up documents stating his parents had been treated at the clinic.
“I appreciate all the work they do here. My mother has diabetes and they helped her,” Martinez
said. “It’s a blessing. It really is.”
Montague, a parishioner of St. Edward Church, wants to remind the community of the vast need that still exists for quality, affordable health care and the costs associated with such an endeavor.
“These are hard-working families who are falling through the cracks. They need care in such a way that is affordable and accessible,” she explained.
Montague noted that the clinic, which follows Catholic health care directives, is supported 100 percent by charitable contributions and donations from individuals and community sponsors.
While there is no cost to patients, Montague estimates that the cost to treat a patient (including lab tests) is about $70 or less.
“Every $1 donated calculates to $3 in medical care that is put back into the community,” she said, noting that the clinic lacks typical overhead expenses, such as full-time staff salaries.
A volunteer staff of more than 200 physicians, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses, lab technicians, social workers, interpreters, medical students and receptionists work together with three part-time staffers (an executive director, a clinic manager and a volunteer coordinator) to serve the medically uninsured.
One of the volunteer physicians is a retired hematologist/oncologist. Dr. Manuel Grimaldi, a parishioner of St. Raphael Church, was asked to help several years ago by Father David Sánchez, pastor of St. Joseph.
“It was a call. You have to answer yes (to a question) coming from a priest,” he said with a chuckle.
Dr. Grimaldi works at the clinic about once a week and said the experience is very humbling. He said he receives far more than he gives.
“We are tending the needs of people who don’t have the means to pay for private care,” he said.
Dr. Grimaldi, who also serves on the clinic’s board, noted that the population he treats is mainly the poor, indigent, uninsured and, many times, undocumented. A majority, he said, are Latinos.
“With my upbringing and background, it helps initiate a more meaningful communication,” said Dr. Grimaldi, a native of Spain.
The clinic, which is located in the basement of the St. Joseph rectory, has a waiting area, triage room, four exam rooms, a lab (capable of performing diagnostic tests), a small pharmacy and a small office for volunteer workers.
Patients can receive care Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.
There’s no need to make an appointment.
The medical staff at the clinic treat a wide array of ailments, anything from the flu to strep throat to ear infections, Montague said. The clinic also offers back-to-school and sports physicals.
Montague said the clinic has received tremendous support from the parish and Father Sánchez.
“They step up to the plate to feed our volunteers,” she said. “They rotate to bring a hot meal here every night.
Many of our volunteers come straight from a shift at the hospital or doctor’s office.”
Julie Hauntz, who volunteers on Saturdays every six weeks, works as a receptionist at the front desk of the clinic. She greets patients and determines if there is a need for an interpreter.
Hauntz said working at the clinic provides her an opportunity to “give back to those in need in a small way.”
She is amazed at the gratitude shown by the patients.
“A man stopped me on the way out one day, asked what he owed and I said, ‘Nothing.’ With tears in his eyes, he thanked me profusely,” she said. “This is what the clinic brings to the community — an option for people with no insurance and no where to turn for medical treatment.”
The clinic always welcomes additional volunteers and parish partnerships, Montague said.
“The need is so great. There are so many people who are uninsured in our community,” she said. “We can do more, be more and treat more — the more volunteers we have.”
For more information, call 384-8444 or visit www.famcomclinic.org.