Free Health Clinic in Yellow Springs Serves Greene County’s Uninsured
Yellow Springs is now home to a free medical clinic. And while the clinic is only open two hours a week, the free care is going a long way for some people in Greene County.
It’s 4:30 on a Tuesday, and the free medical clinic at the AME Chapel in Yellow Springs just opened.
Charles Browder Jr. was first in line. He came in hopes of getting medication for his high blood pressure and arthritis.
“They took me in,” Browder says. “They took my vitals and everything, got me my prescriptions that I needed.”
Browder works at the Fuyao plant, where he inspects auto glass as it comes out of the furnaces. He says they pay well and offer insurance, but after his bills and child support, there’s no money left to buy health insurance. Without the clinic, he says getting his medications “would be impossible, or real expensive, one of the two.”
Without his prescriptions, Browder says he’s “liable to stroke out and be in pain” because temperatures on the floor at Fuyao can reach 100 to 105 degress.
“If I didn’t have my meds,” he says. “It would be a rough day.
Steve Bujenovic, one of the doctors volunteering here today, says Browder is just one of many people in the area scrambling for health care.
“We ran the numbers,” Bujenovic says. “There are about 168,000 people in Greene County, and 10,000 of them don’t have insurance. That’s not good.”
Pamela von Matthiessen is the other doctor seeing patients today. She retired in 2017, but came out of retirement to practice at this free clinic, which is run by an organization called Reach Out. von Matthiessen is quick to note that the clinic can do more than just give physicals and write prescriptions.
“I had a middle-aged man whose father had died of colon cancer at 50,” says von Matthiessen. “This man needs a colonoscopy. And he said, ‘but I can’t afford $5,000!’ Well, we have an agreement with a GI group in Dayton who will give three free colonoscopies a month. And I’ll sleep better and this gentlemen will sleep better knowing he doesn’t have colon cancer.”
While Reach Out can’t get patients everything for free, von Matthiessen says they can connect patients with free or discounted services from dermatologists, orthopedists, unrologists, OBGYNs, and many other specialists.
And health insurance—or lack thereof—may be a bigger issue than the public is aware of. Sharon Sherlock, Executive Director of Reach Out, says donations have been harder to come by lately as many Americans think the Affordable Care Act solved the country’s insurance issues.
“There’s this fallacy that everyone has insurance and if you’re employed you have insurance, but there’s a lot of people without services,” Sherlock says.
Reach Out’s full name is Reach Out of Montgomery County, though that seems a little dated now that they’re serving Greene County as well. The organization has been around for 25 years. In Dayton, they have a clinic with a pharmacy, physical therapy, and psychiatric services, but this is their first time providing services outside of Montgomery County.
Sherlock says Greene County’s medical needs were illustrated in a tragic way almost immediately after the Yellow Springs clinic opened its doors.
“When your second patient arrives and they have extensive cancer, you think: Well, they didn’t think they had access, they couldn’t afford it, they had fears. All those things people face before they access health care. Then they seek help, and it’s too late.”
That patient died, and Sherlock says it shows just how badly some people in Greene County need help.
The clinic started with a six month trial run, which ended this summer, but they say they’re here to stay now and hoping to find a permanent home in the village.
Reach Out is helping Yellow Springs do a health needs assessment, and Sherlock is quick to point out that preventative medicine and early diagnosis can save both lives and thousands of dollars in emergency services.
The clinic could help the village realize some of its other goals, too. Two non-profit agencies—Yellow Springs Home Inc. and St. Mary Connect--want to see affordable senior housing built for the village’s aging population, and they pushed for this clinic to open.
That’s because there’s a financial link.
There are substantial grants available through the state to help subsidize senior housing, but a proposed housing location has to be within a few miles of a medical center or medical clinic.
Yellow Springs didn’t have one until now.