BRIDGE OF HOPE
There is an old Wynona and Naomi Judd song which says “love can build a bridge.” Perhaps that was not how or why the free Bridge Medical Clinic in Harrisburg was named in August of 2000 when it was established in Eldorado, but the clinic creates a bridge between the indigent employed and medical care they need.
Bridge Medical Clinic was moved to its present location 715 East Church Street in Harrisburg in 2004. It is a clinic providing free medical treatment, Slav testing, x-ray testing, and medication to the qualifying working poor of Saline and Gallatin counties. All of the services are possible through grants, donations, and volunteer staff.
Officer Manager Joan Harper, who came on board in August of 2005 as a volunteer is one of only two paid employees. She became an employee in February, 2006. Paid for twenty hours, she and her faithful volunteer helper, husband Jack, put in thirty to thirty-five hours per week to accomplish the enormous amount of work involved in keeping the clinic running. Even that extra volunteer time added to the paid time is not enough to keep everything done, according to Harper. “I couldn’t do it without him,” she said of her husband.
A prime example of who can benefit from the free services is a sixty-two year old woman of Carrier Mills, who came in Friday afternoon to apply for free benefits. She had been commuting to another county to work, many miles from her home and the gasoline expense caused her to have to give up full time work there, lose her health benefits and take part time work in Harrisburg.
Eligibility for the service applied to the woman because she fit the criteria of being eighteen to sixty-four years of age and employed.
“I get to see these people, who would not normally go to a doctor, getting help now,” Harper said. “They wouldn’t otherwise get medication.”
Harper, assisted by one other employee, Lynette Seets of Junction, an original worker from the Eldorado location, oversees the operation. The services provide for those falling within the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and who live in Saline and Gallatin counties.
Without clinics such as Bridge, staffed with volunteer physicians, nurses, laboratory technicians, pharmacists, and secretarial help sharing the duties on clinic nights, many in the area would do without simply because they cannot afford the doctor bill and/or medication prescribed. The United States has forty-four million employed people without medical coverage.
Bridge Clinic currently has eighty-eight active patients receiving treatment at the clinic and each week the clinic accepts four new patients. It is estimated that by this time next year, the clinic will be serving at least 300 new uninsured patients. If all eligible persons were aware of the clinic and its free services for the employed indigent in the two counties, the clinic could possibly be overrun. Not everyone is aware of the free service.
Elizabeth Bebout, Physicians’ Assistant for Family Practice, and mother raising five girls, at thirty-nine works four hours on Thursdays, funded by a one year grant which expires in May 25, 2007. She volunteers one night a month on a rotating basis with other medical personnel, and does it all with a degree of angel mercy. Bebout is a full time employee of Shawneetown Clinic, and serves as she can at the Harrisburg facility. She has studied medicine for years, even commuting when she had to. Her goal is to complete her medical studies as a physician.
“I get a good feeling every day,” she said of her accomplishments at Bridge Medical Clinic in Harrisburg. “Country practice is what I wanted. You’re there to do medicine for the major population of Saline County.” She explained that the people she and other medical personnel see might sit at home and do without medical assistance because they do not have insurance. “People would be amazed by how many who do sit home.”
Bebout worked on many degrees from several colleges, including McKendree, Lebanon, one in North Dakota, some in southern Indiana, and Southern Illinois University. She is still being educated in the field of medicine, but at the present time is titled as a P.A. full time employee at Shawneetown. That clinic is federally funded through rural health medical care to indigent as well as the insured.
Having lived in Harrisburg all her life, Bebout became interested in providing services for the clinic in Saline County when she met Joan Harper and her husband Jack. They asked her if she would help keep the clinic open for the indigent population. She gives as much time as is possible. She described her major accomplishment at the Bridge Clinic as “just being able to provide medical and lab work for those who would not have that care otherwise.”
Harper herself brings vast experience to the clinic, having had some nurse’s training in younger days, later working for the late Dr. Durham, Dr. Larry Jones as office manager and helping out in the office. She worked for an orthopedic doctor in Florida during the days she and her husband lived there; for Larry Calufetti in his business doing payroll. Dr. Jones enticed her to volunteer at the Clinic, she said, and she later was able to be hired as the office manager due to her experience.
November 3 of this year a fund raiser will be held at Southeastern Illinois College, headed by Julie Kuppart along with Gloria Tison, both board members, to supplement the clinic operation.
Funding for the clinic also comes from small grants which have to be applied for by the clinic manager, such as the United Way, Welborn Wellness Clinic quarterly grant, money donated by such places as churches, from fund raisers, and patients gratefully dropping off what they can in a collection box in the office. Added to this, surgeons and radiologists donate consulting, with Harrisburg Medical Center donating a certain amount each month to care for some of the indigent patients.
The clinic could not operate without the volunteer medical personnel from Harrisburg, Carrier Mills and Eldorado Primary Care, and Shawneetown Clinic. Lab work is donated by servers such as Lab Corp. doing blood tests free to a cost of $21,000 plus in service through diagnosis. Drugs are supplied through the Patient Assistance Program from major drug companies, “Who don’t charge people for brand name drugs,” explained Jack Harper. Then there is RX Outreach which has tiers of pharmacy purchases: Tier one at a cost of $20 for three months and Tier two at R$30 per three months for generic drugs.
Donations are needed for the office manager’s salary, medical equipment purchases, office supplies, transcription equipment and fee’s, computer equipment and fee’s, yearly insurance for the clinic, medication purchases, and x-ray testing.
Those making donations are responsible for the working uninsured of Saline and Gallatin counties receiving much needed medical care free of charge, and in the community being healthier and more productive.
One example of a donation made recently was Benna Daugherty, O.D., who shared an award from the Illinois Optometric Convention in Springfield based on her humanitarian efforts as an optometrist. She donated $1,750 to the Bridge Medical Clinic.
Eligibility is determined by the applicant being a resident of Saline or Gallatin County, patient or spouse being employed, or registered with the job service or the Unemployment Office, total household income must fall within 150 percent of the Federal poverty Guidelines; applicants must not have health insurance. Applicants cannot be treated for a Disability Claim, School, or work physical.
Twelve board members oversee the operation: President Jason Kasiar, Vice-president, Kathy Lindsay, Secretary, Mike Oshel, Treasurer, Doug Thompson, Medical Director Larry Jones, and Directors Angie Hampton, Katina Eubanks, Gloria Tison, Julie Kuppart, Tim Scates, Michelle Reichardt, and Joan Harper, office manager.
Medical volunteers include Medical Doctors Larry Jones, Andrea Miller, Shannon Rider, Roger Watters, Matt Winkleman, Laura Winkleman, Michael York, Kimball Ewell, and Charles Seton. Physicians Assistants include Curt Morris, David Jones, and Elizabeth Bebout. Nurse Practicioners are Elizabeth Eversman, Stephanie Franklin, and Sherry Livingston, PNP.
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