By Matt Clevenger
For Miami Valley Today
TROY — The Health Partners Free Clinic is making several changes in response to COVID-19, introducing new social distancing measures during office visits, and holding its annual Healing Jar fundraising campaign online this year.
“We made a quick change of procedures and protocols,” executive director Justin Coby said. “We have a completely empty waiting room nowadays, where it used to be full of patients who were coming in for scheduled appointments or walk-ins.’
The clinic is still seeing patients normally, with new rules in place to comply with social distancing recommendations. “Now we have them call from the door, then stay in their car,” Coby said. “We check them at the door; we’re looking at their temperature, we’re asking the questions we need to ask about travel, and then we bring them back into the room quickly.”
Offering a wide range of medical services, the clinic provides free office visits for all, along with free prescriptions, testing and other services for those who qualify. “Anybody who needs to see one of our nurse practitioners or a physician, can do so,” Coby said. “There’s no financial limitation. You’re going to be able to see a nurse practitioner or physician at no cost regardless of your financial situation.”
“To get the full breadth of our services, which includes prescription medications, it’s typically 250 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify for that,” he said. “Some of those restrictions have been lifted up to 300 percent during COVID-19, but I would say that if you are in a hardship or if you need somewhere to go, just give us a call and we’ll work with you.”
Along with adding social distancing measures, the clinic is also purchasing new computer hardware that will allow patients to use videoconferencing and other types of online telemedicine, especially for visits related to chronic disease management.
“Right now we’re taking some visits over the phone, as we build up some hardware and software for teleconferencing or video conferencing,” Coby said. “We were able to secure a grant from the Piqua Community Foundation to purchase that hardware, so we’ll now be able to offer video conferencing and telemedicine to those who don’t have insurance.”
“For those we can do telemedicine with, we’re going to,” he said, “but we’re not going to let it replace what we do here at the clinic.”
Other changes involve the clinic’s annual Healing Jar fundraising campaign, which will be held online this year due to COVID-19.
“It’s usually a big bash,” Coby said. “We have a live band, craft beer, wine, local food, but because of COVID-19 we’ve moved it to a 100 percent online campaign.”
The clinic’s goal is to raise $20,000 through the Healing Jar campaign, and donations can be made online at www.2020healingjar.givesmart.com.
“I would say that our programming costs will probably increase about 25 percent next year, as we start facing the economic realities post-COVID-19,” Coby said.
The clinic’s largest sponsors are the Perigo Foundation, the Paul G. Duke Foundation and the Upper Valley Medical Center Community Benefits Fund. One of the strongest free clinics in the state, the Health Partners Clinic is open five days a week with a 12-member staff.
Last year, the clinic served approximately 1,000 different patients, conducting 2,800 office visits.
“We dispensed or provided nearly 9,000 prescription medications,” Coby said. “The total value of all the services that we provided last year was a little over $2.1 million.”
The Health Partners clinic was started in 1998 by a group of doctors and nurses working with the organization Partners in Hope. “It’s because of those giants whose shoulders we stand on today that we’re fortunate enough to have this in our community,” Coby said.
Patients can visit the clinic’s website at www.healthpartnersclinic.org to take a virtual tour of the clinic’s facility located on North County Road 25-A.
“More than anything, I want people to understand that just because we’re a free clinic doesn’t mean we’re not the best health care you can access,” Coby said. “We’re not a second-level facility.”
“We have an extremely nice facility with licensed, professional staff,” he said. “Anybody who’s going to be in a tight spot throughout the next six to twelve months and needs some help offsetting their bills, they should be accessing us and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“They’re going to actually be surprised at how good their care is here,” he said. “We’re here, we’re prepared to work and help get this community through what could be a little bit of a recession.”