What would you do if you had no home, were sick, living in your car or on the street with no phone and very little money? I am not talking about India today, but about America. There are people who exist like this in Albany, the capital of New York State. There is, though, a beacon of hope and help in the middle of a neighborhood with many challenges for the people living there. I visited yesterday to see the Free Clinic which is part of the Capital City Rescue Mission.
Sarah Schoof, nurse practitioner, has been running this Free Clinic for almost 10 years. She is also a qualified nurse for travel medications and inoculations, and she has a long history in helping the needy with her medical training. She and her husband were involved with helping the poor in Kenya for many years and, she worked in a much larger Free Clinic in Chicago before coming to Albany.
The Free Clinic is opened on Tuesday and Friday from 10- 3. There are about 45 volunteering medical professionals working through the month. The day to day work is done by nurses and nurse practitioners. Yesterday, there was a young nurse who works in Glenns Falls and wants to volunteer in the clinic. There are doctors who volunteer and come for referrals on a monthly schedule. There is a medication room where meds are given as needed without any charge. All men, women and children are served from the neighborhood with the only restriction being that they have no health insurance. This is to serve the people with the greatest need. Twenty five to forty patients are seen on each of the two days. There is a need at the moment for more space….a good and bad problem to have. They are glad that people are coming to be helped but the tiny space doesn’t adequately cover their needs. I will tell you more about that later.
There are many homeless/destitute people with hypertension or diabetes either undiagnosed or having gone months without medication. I am including some links that may interest you explaining the work of free clinics in the big picture.
How Free Clinics will still be important in light of the Affordable Care Act (Obama care):
Research study showing decreased use of Emergency Department visits for minor problems by uninsured people who use a Free Clinic for care versus non-Free Clinic users:
Comparison of Free Clinics with Federally Qualified Health Centers:
I want to share one personal story of a woman, Linda who stepped out of the darkness and into the light with the help of the Free Clinic. At age 61, Linda was working 24 shifts or up to 14 days in row just to survive. After this schedule for several years, her body and spirit rebelled and she fell into a deep depression. She had no health insurance at her last job and her health went quickly downhill. And she was now homeless living with her few belongings in her small car. Linda was too ill to be able to navigate the New Your State health care system. She had no cell phone and no money to buy one. Needless to say unlimited time and money at a pay phone, if she knew where to find one, was unthinkable. With no address or phone, Linda was lost to the system.
Fortunately Linda’s cousin, who shared this story, knew about the Free Clinic and brought her in. On the first visit, Sarah discovered that Linda had undiagnosed hypertension, was clinically depressed, had lost twenty pounds in a month, and she wore glasses with only one lens intact. She was in desperate need of help. A physical was given; blood tests and medications were prescribed. Sarah continued to meet with and monitor her progress until the meds improved her health and she began to function again.
Since her dramatic health improvement, Linda has been the caretaker for elderly family members, worked at a church food pantry, volunteered at a senior center as coordinator, and a good deal of her time now is driving seniors to various doctor appointments. The outreach of this Free Clinic has boundless limits as Sarah helped Linda to step out of her darkness, and she, in turn, has been able to help others.
The clinic has a good problem at the moment. They are serving too many patients for the space that is available in the mission. The good news is that space will become available soon in the Mission complex but money is needed to renovate it into a clinic space. The size is twice the size that is available now, and patients will no longer line up in the hallways. A local cooperation, Hannay Reels, has pledged $15,000 for the new clinic as a matching gift, but $15,000 needs to be raised to receive it.
Some of my blogger friends are halfway around the world and are reading to learn about places like the Free Clinic in America, but there are some right in the Capital District. I am including Sarah’s contact information for those who might like to give either donations or for medical professionals, hours to serve in volunteering. At the very end of the post there a free, 10 second way all of you who are reading this blog can help. Go and vote for Capital City Rescue Center to be awarded the $25,000 check from SEFCU, a local credit union.
Sarah H. Schoof, FNP
Capital Chapter Nurse Practitioner of the Year 2012
48 McCormack Rd
Slingerlands NY 12159
“But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” 1John 3:17
We need your help to receive a $25,000 award!! Your vote counts…for the homeless and needy
Go to: http://www.sefcu.com/5kvote before Aug 16th
(and vote for Capital City Rescue Mission with each of your email addresses!)