Painesville — Since 1971, Lake County Free Clinic has made helping the community a priority, providing medical and dental care at no cost to adults and children who are uninsured or underinsured.
Now, as the premier free clinic in northeast Ohio, Lake County Free Clinic needs the community’s help.
In early 2022, LCFC will be moving into a new permanent location in central Painesville from which to provide comprehensive primary and specialty medical care, dental care, case management, labs, prescriptions, referrals for vision and specialty care, supplies and education. To do that, LCFC is launching “Building for a Healthier Community,” a capital campaign to raise $615,000.
“This is definitely one of the biggest challenges LCFC has faced in its 50-year history,” said LCFC Executive Director Marty Hiller. “I always say that a strong free clinic is a sign of strong community support, and I am confident that, as they have in the past, the community will help us remain strong for years to come. We are proud to be able to tell the community that we have already raised nearly half of the funds needed for this community investment.”
In the middle of the pandemic, LCFC leaders were told that the site where the clinic had operated for more than 15 years had been sold. Since January 2021, LCFC has provided chronic, acute and preventive medical care from much smaller temporary quarters while the clinic’s site search team worked diligently to identify a facility that would not only meet the current need but could accommodate the clinic’s growing caseload and list of services for many years to come.
In the last few years, LCFC has worked toward adopting a social determinants approach to healthcare, not only identifying the medical or dental concerns of patients but adding a case management program to identify and address other basic needs that could impact their health, such as insufficient food or inadequate housing. This whole-person approach is being adopted by a wide array of healthcare providers and has demonstrated positive and long-lasting health outcomes.
The new facility will allow the clinic to resume its much-anticipated dental services, expand medical care and more fully integrate the case management program. Time is of the essence, Hiller noted.
“Our patients need us,” he said. “Thousands of people who don’t have medical or dental insurance in Lake and surrounding counties need us. An uninsured person who visits an emergency department is twice as likely to declare bankruptcy in four years — and if the patient decides to go, there are times the patient does not get the help they need. Emergency departments are great for stabilizing patients in urgent situations. They are not primary care providers. Lake County Free Clinic is.”
Philip, a Mentor resident, came to LCFC in late 2020. He was uninsured and worried, because he hadn’t had his blood pressure checked in more than a year. At his first visit, his provider found edema and noticed that Philip’s blood pressure was reaching levels that could possibly cause a stroke. Philip left with medication and instructions on regaining his health.
By his next visit, he had started on medication, cut back on junk food and began hiking. He is excited for his next follow-up visit and new lifestyle.
“Everyone here is most helpful and friendly,” he said, adding that he was grateful to find a place where he could get care without insurance.
In 2020, LCFC provided more than 3,300 medical and dental treatment visits, even while limiting visits for two months due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. This year, LCFC is expecting to exceed the number of medical visits provided the year prior to the pandemic. More than 93 percent of patients are uninsured; more than 60 percent of patients have household incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
“The need for affordable healthcare is part of the larger picture of inequalities affecting many members of our community. This need continues to grow as our neighbors lose insurance coverage or employment,” Hiller said. “Free clinics reflect the value a community places on the health of its residents, and the community’s generosity is what allows that care to happen.”
For more information, or to support the work being done at LCFC, visit www.lakefreeclinic.org.