Free clinic moves to new Tupelo location

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Volunteers have rolled up their sleeves to get the Tree of Life’s new clinic ready for patients.
They’ve scraped up aging carpet, scrubbed counters, built a reception desk and hauled in donated furniture to the former savings and loan building at 541 West Main St. in Tupelo owned by Calvary Baptist Church.
“It’s a mission clinic,” said Dr. Joe Bailey, clinic founder. “It doesn’t have to be fancy.”
On Saturday, volunteers will open the doors of the building to patients for the first time. The clinic is open to anyone who has no health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare, regardless of where they live.
Since its opening in January, the clinic has been using a building on Crossover Road donated by Tree of Life board member Dr. Mark Shepherd .
Patients have come from as far away as Alabama and Tennessee.
“It’s not limited to Lee County,” said Polly Bailey, a clinic board member and Joe Bailey’s wife.
The clinic is based on foreign medical missions Bailey and other volunteers have participated in; the services are basic with no real laboratory, X-rays or specialized services.
Unfortunately, there are so many people without health care resources, the group has seen at least 100 patients on the third Saturday of the month. In April, the clinic had 121 patients.
Having a dedicated clinic building will open up the possibility of expanding the clinic beyond once a month, Bailey said. However, the clinic needs a bigger pool of volunteer health care providers before the Tree of Life board can add clinic days during the month.
The community has stepped forward to help bring the clinic to reality. Calvary Baptist Church has donated the use of the building, and other churches around Tupelo have also supported the effort.
“This has been a joint effort,” said retired Tupelo pediatrician Dr. Bill Hilbun, who is a Tree of Life board member.
The clinic, which has completed the 501(c)(3) process to be an IRS-recognized charity, serves the uninsured who don’t qualify for other charity health care organizations.
“I think people are really grateful for this project,” said Elquin Gonzalez, the Hispanic minister at St. James Catholic Church.
New partners are joining the effort. Doug Wright, owner of LTC Pharmacy Solutions and Super Sav-On Drugs, has committed to stocking the pharmacy for the clinic.
“This is a way I can contribute and participate,” said Wright, who is a member of Calvary. “I want to encourage others to donate.”
The clinic has been using about $1,000 on medications. Hypertension and diabetes medications have been the biggest need, Bailey said.
“This will free up some money for other things – such as insulin – that we haven’t been able to provide,” Bailey said.
Contact Michaela Morris at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.

Tree of Life/Arbol de la Vida Free Clinic
- Who: Open to patients without Medicaid, Medicare or private health insurance; no income or residency requirements.
- When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
- Where: 541 West Main S. Tupelo
- Parking: Parking is available in front and behind the clinic, Calvary Baptist Church, TRI Real Estate office and on West Main St.
- Information: (662) 842-8788