By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – For two decades, the Good Samaritan Free Clinic has been a lifesaver for people like Jessica Shaw of Tupelo.
“They’ve been wonderful,” Shaw said. “Without them, I couldn’t take care of my diabetes.”
Shaw spends her days taking care of seniors who need assistance in their homes.
“My job doesn’t offer any health care,” Shaw said.
In its 20th year of operation, the clinic has logged more than 58,000 visits by more than 9,500 Lee County residents, said Executive Director Cindy Sparks. The clinic’s average patient brings home $950 a month to care for a family of two.
“Without us, these patients would go without medical care,” Sparks said.
Initially conceived as an acute care clinic for the working uninsured, it became clear that the clinic’s patients were fighting more than strep throat or the flu.
“The chronic problems were so prominent,” Sparks said. “We quickly evolved to be a medical home.”
It takes a village to run the clinic – 35 doctors and three physician practices volunteer time to see patients in the clinic, 50 lay volunteers help with clerical duties and specialists and dentists see Good Samaritan referrals in their offices.
“I do this out of a sense of mission,” said Dr. Billy Walton, who helped start a Wednesday morning clinic at Good Samaritan. “They’re working very hard, but they’re not able to afford insurance.”
The staff and volunteers are able to leverage a $306,000 budget to cover 2,900 patient visits and 12,000 prescriptions each year. Patient assistance programs provided $620,000 of medications to Good Samaritan patients.
It’s a continuing challenge for the clinic to provide medications and supplies, especially for people with diabetes, Sparks said. With the economic downturn, some of the clinic’s grant funding has decreased, but the need remains.
“This is a service to the community and businesses that can’t afford to offer health care insurance,” Sparks said. “We can treat the problems and keep them from missing work.”