Free clinic expands services to non-U.S. citizens

By  | 

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Free Clinic recently expanded its services to more uninsured people by ditching a rule barring those who are not United States citizens from accessing care at the office.

The decision was made unanimously by the governing board of the facility.

"[The rule was] inconsistent with the practices of other free clinics, so we are aligning our services with others who share our mission," said Katherine Harrison, the chair of the board, in a statement.

In addition, the maximum income threshold for patients was raised to 300% or less of the federal poverty level — up from 200%.

"We spoke with the United Way, we spoke with the hospital, reached out to the community health center and tried to really take the temperature of this community and say 'where is the health care need,'" Summer Sage, the executive director of the clinic, said.

A survey of the community found people with lower incomes who would hold off going to the doctor and end up in the emergency room, according to Sage.

"If we're not creating opportunities for our community's overall health, then we're jeopardizing the entire community," she said.

There is also additional room at the clinic after more than 500 of its patients became eligible for Medicaid when Virginia expanded the insurance program.

"We have the capacity here to see patients, we've got our paperwork up to date," said Sage. "Moving now more into a primary care piece we're hoping that we'll be able to see more patients but catch them and do preventative care and so we're seeing them not as frequently."

The clinic, which can provide up to 2,000 patient visits per year, receives about seven to eight new applications per week on average, according to Sage.

While medical professionals volunteer their time to provide care, individuals, businesses, foundations, churches, and civic groups provide monetary donations to cover the clinic's operating expenses.