CALDWELL -- A community clinic in Caldwell needs help. They're low on funds and struggling each month to keep offering free care to folks who are low on money and without insurance
The Canyon County Community Clinic was an idea a Bible study group came up with. They modeled it after a Garden City clinic and opened two years ago. Now they're worried about keeping the program going, while the need keeps rising.
On Wednesday morning, dozens of people tried getting free doctor appointments at the weekly Canyon County Community Clinic, which is held in the donated space of Terry Reilly Health Services.
"There were 35 missed calls by 9:30, and at 9:00 is when we start taking the calls," Lori Rose, Clinic Administrator and Volunteer Coordinator said.
With three volunteer doctors working that night, they were able to squeeze in 14 patients. All the patients are uninsured and at or under 200% of the poverty line (for a single person, that's $21,660).
"Basically it's the people who fall between the cracks," Rose said. "They can't afford to pay a visit on their own, out of their own pockets, so we are there for them. Those who don't have anywhere else to go."
"One eye-opener for me was these are people who live next door to you," Rose said. "You have this stereotypical, 'people waiting around the block to get free meds'. It's not. It's people you go to church with. People you see in line at Walmart. Most of them, by the time they find us, we are their last resort."
"It means a lot because right now I'm laid off, and you can't go to the doctor if you don't have money," patient America Benavidez said. "It's too expensive to go to the doctors nowadays, too much, and I don't have it. So this is a good clinic for everybody that doesn't have money."
On this particular Wednesday, Benavidez was lucky and one of those 14 people who got to see a medical provider. Many others are turned away each week.
"We're not meeting anywhere close to the need. We're touching the tip of the iceberg, we're helping some people out that wouldn't get help, but there could be ten of these clinics, and we'd all be full whenever we're open," Dr. John Pearce, Clinic Medical Director said.
Not only are they turning people away, since December, the clinic has had to cut back on paying for patient prescriptions.
"Right now, it's like month to month. We look at the bank, okay we can be open one more week." Rose said.
For now, the clinic is hoping to get enough donations just to keep going as is. The dream is to one day expand to help even more.
"If we could have our own place, we'd like to open more than one night a week. We'd like to open on daytime, so that we can see more people. But if the money's gone... I have volunteers that will keep coming because they love what they're doing, but we can't afford to get their meds for them," Rose said.
Doctors who volunteer say the service is very important. They focus on treating patients with chronic diseases, like high blood pressure or diabetes. Without preventative care like the clinic offers, Pearce says costly emergency and hospital visits would be more likely.
"They just wouldn't get care at all, so what happens with that is they end up in the emergency room with either a stroke or a heart attack," Pearce said.
To get more information or to donate or volunteer, go to the clinic's website by clicking here.