Church-based free clinics to offer help for the underinsured and uninsured
When Jocelyn Howard unexpectedly lost her job last year, she lost some of her health benefits, too.
If you go
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JUNE 12: New Hope United Methodist, 1568 Carter Road, Ridgeville.
JUNE 19: Wesley United Methodist, 3250 Ladson Road, Ladson.
JUNE 21: Murray United Methodist, 1216 Orangeburg Road, Summerville.
Thursdays: St. Paul’s Episcopal, 316 W. Carolina Ave., Summerville.
That’s why the underinsured Summerville resident said she is “ecstatic” that a free walk-in medical clinic will be opening at Murray United Methodist, her church.
Murray is one of three churches that will begin hosting the clinics this month. They join St. Paul’s Episcopal in Summerville.
Volunteer physicians will track patients’ progress using donated electronic medical record software during a six-month trial period, said Dr. Otis Engelman, one of the coordinators.
Organizers from Murray, New Hope United Methodist in Ridgeville and Wesley United Methodist in Ladson said they expect patients from beyond their own churches to attend the monthly clinics, but they are unsure how many people will show up.
“No one will be turned away,” said Rev. Willie Dicks of the Ridgeville church. “It’s a big thing for this community. We’re rural. There’s a lot of people with diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol problems. This is a chance for them to get checked.”
The clinics will handle most services available at normal family medicine practices including blood draws, said Engelman, who works for Palmetto Primary Care Physicians. Spanish translation and enrollment assistance for social services also will be available, he said.
The new clinics are modeled on existing free clinics in the state.
Engelman, who has volunteered at the weekly free clinic at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Summerville for 22 years, and state Sen. Mike Rose helped identify the churches where the three new clinics would be.
Engelman wants the volunteer health professionals to address the patients’ undiagnosed chronic diseases before they become more difficult and costly to treat.
“If I can identify these folks before they’ve had a morbid event, then we can modify their health outcomes,” he said.
Howard, from Murray, said that is the type of treatment she is looking for.
“I have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol,” said Howard, who also plans to volunteer as an administrator at the clinic. “I want diet advice and help with my medications. People here need this.”
Reach Renee Dudley at 937-5550 or on Twitter @renee_dudley.