The Community Care Clinic that is located in Franklin is set to receive funding from the Macon County Commissioners during the next fiscal year. About five percent of Macon County residents visit Franklin's free clinic which has been operating for the last four years. In a response to the obvious need, the commissioners chose to grant the clinic $40,000 for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
Originally, County Manager Jack Horton had offered the clinic $10,000 in his budget, but at a meeting hosted by the commissioners earlier this month, commissioner Ronnie Beale introduced representatives of the clinic who were hoping to secure more funding —$50,000 per year for three years.
“Franklin's clinic started as a result of Highlands' free clinic. A lot of people were going up the mountain to seek medical attention,” said Beale. “As a result, we started one in Franklin. It's important and it needs a base.”
The clinic currently operates on a volunteer basis. Doctors provide services twice a week at the Macon County health center and last year saw around 1,700 patients.
According to Care Clinic Chairman Linda Tyler, the largest share of the patients are women, the average age is around 21, and most are underemployed.
“We're coming to see you all today in order to ask you for this money so we can keep the clinic operating. Our patients are neighbors of yours who may have diabetes and lost their job a few months ago,” said Tyler. “Maybe they can't afford to see a doctor or buy their medication. Maybe it’s the woman who sits behind you in church who can't see the doctor. Maybe she lost her job or she doesn't make enough to be able to buy insurance. These are the people that need these services.”
She says the clinic runs on about $130,000 each year. The funds come from fundraising and donations from churches and townspeople. The Highlands clinic stemmed from similar beginnings and has now become self- sufficient.
“It takes time to develop fundraising plans,” said Tyler. “We don't have that yet, but the Highlands clinic that has been running for seven years has established that support system within the community to be able to operate without any help from you or the town.”
There is currently a waiting list of four to six weeks for those who are seeking medical attention, but it is believed that as it stands, it is a helpful asset to the community and with increased funding, it would be even more valuable. “We have to consider how much this saves in healthcare costs in the long run,” said Beale. “I know they're asking for a lot of money, but it's important. The Community Care Clinic is on the same level as the schools.”
The money requested will help to fund parttime employees — two mid-level nurse practitioners — medical supplies, and medications.
“These clinics serve the people that are falling through the cracks,” said Jerry Hermanson, executive director of the Community Care Clinic in Highlands. “These are people who may make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but can't afford to buy insurance.”
In the budget that was approved by the county commissioners, a one time sum of $40,000 was allocated for Franklin's Community Care Clinic, a significant increase from the original $10,000 set in Horton’s budget.
“At this time we can't commit to a three- year plan, but after discussions, we're willing to allow $40,000 in the upcoming fiscal year,” said Chairman Kevin Corbin. “They have to get their fundraising established though so they can eventually be self-sufficient. Maybe with these funds it will help them go in that direction.”