More support for free clinics | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More support for free clinics

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 10:28 AM

Heather Hahn, an editor for the United Methodist Church in Arkansas, has written to add to earlier information about the existence of free medical clinics in Arkansas.

I should have said that my posts encouraging Little Rock to host a mass free medical/dental clinic (MSNBC's Keith Olbermann said last night he'd raised $800,000 toward that cause if we could come up with the venue) was not meant as disparagement of the many volunteer efforts to reach people without health coverage.

The mass clinics, wildly successful elsewhere, serve huge numbers of people, draw many medical volunteers and would demonstrate to a national audience that this is a city that cares.

So why not call or write Mayor Mark Stodola (mayor@littlerock.org), North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays (mayor@northlittlerock.gov.ar) or County Judge Buddy Villines (cojudge@co.pulaski.ar.us) and get them to use their good offices to find a venue and operational help to stage one of these mass clinics. Verizon Arena, the Statehouse Convention Center or the State Fair are all public facilities that seem likely candidates. It would be good for the city to be seen nationally as a merciful place. Perhaps some corporate philanthropists would want to help.

Who will help Little Rock if her own people do not? Picture doctors and nurses on those trucks streaming into Little Rock in Larry Obstinik's famous 1957 photograph.

Meanwhile, more from Heather Hahn: 

I just saw your follow-up to your free medical clinic posting this morning
on the Arkansas Times blog. I am the editor of the Arkansas United
Methodist, the state's denominational newspaper. Through my reporting, I
learned from the Arkansas Association of Charitable Clinics  that there are
nearly 30 free medical clinics across the state. Most meet only once or
twice a month. Harmony Health Clinic isn't alone. Here in Pulaski County,
there is also the weekly Shepherd's Hope Clinic at Oak Forest United
Methodist Church in Little Rock each Thursday night. The  clinic is a
partnership between Oak Forest and Fellowship Bible Church, though
volunteers from other congregations also help. The clinic just added dental
services in September. In North Little Rock, Levy United Methodist also has
partnered with St. Vincent Medical Center to provide a health clinic. There
are likely others I'm forgetting.

All of which is to add that many of the state's houses of worship and
medical professionals are already engaged in providing free care of some
sort, which I thought you should know.

But please know, this is in no way suggesting I don't think health care
reform is necessary. Even with all these volunteer efforts, it's still not
enough to make up for the insurance shortfall that affects hundreds of
thousands of Arkansans who are too rich for Medicaid, too young for Medicare
and too poor to afford private health insurance. All of these clinics are
overrun and quickly fill up their time slots minutes after they open. I have
no doubt another free clinic would find itself quickly packed with people
lined up the night before.

As a longtime religion reporter (I used to work for the Democrat-Gazette),
one of my great joys is sharing the ways congregations of all sorts step up
to try to fill in the gaps in social services. The  manpower Arkansas'
faithful provide ‹ whether it's clearing brush after a bad storm or
providing free health screenings and dental checkups ‹ is sometimes no
substitute for the kind of financial support, regulation and oversight only
the federal government can provide.

Thanks for letting me share this information,


Heather Hahn
Editor
Arkansas United Methodist


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