May 1, 2014

York County clinic for uninsured expands with eye, dental care

A health clinic serving uninsured York County residents has started offering dental care and is adding an optometry room.

A health clinic serving uninsured York County residents has started offering dental care and is adding an optometry room.

York County Free Clinic – located on Oakland Avenue in Rock Hill – is renovating an employee break area into a new optometry room, the latest step toward the clinic’s goal of providing truly comprehensive care, said Executive Director Janet Selz.

“As we’re expanding, we’re really able to treat the whole patient,” said Selz, who doubles as one of two staff nurse practitioners.

The clinic also kick-started a new dental program in April, which will provide care through a mobile van at the side of the building.

The clinic serves patients ages 18 to 64 who lack private or public insurance and are within 175 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Those who receive Medicaid, Medicare or some other form of health insurance are ineligible.

Potential patients must submit identification, proof of residency and income before receiving services. Once patients are eligible, they can receive a variety of services including routine screenings with lab work, free prescription coverage and the forthcoming eye care.

All services – including basic prescriptions, diabetic monitoring supplies, and laboratory tests – are at no cost to the patient.

The clinic – formerly called Palmetto Volunteers in Medicine – moved into its current space in May from a smaller facility on Herlong Avenue, nearly tripling its floorspace and doubling the number of exam rooms to four. The renovated optometry room will increase the clinic’s number of exam rooms to five.

Old photos of the Herlong facility – including an interior shot of a packed supply closet – hang on the wall of the new clinic as a reminder of its continued expansion. The clinic also began offering free mammograms last year through a mobile van provided by Novant health.

Selz said the clinic is aimed at serving 3,000 appointments this year and has gotten more interest from potential clients because of the federal Affordable Care Act, which mandates that all U.S. citizens have health insurance or face monetary penalties.

She said the act has prompted the public to become more aware of their health status and to seek information regarding their eligibility for health services such as the free clinic.

South Carolina is one of several states that opted out of the Medicaid expansion that was offered as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. That created a gap for residents whose income is too high to qualify under current Medicaid guidelines but who are unable to afford monthly insurance premiums and are ineligible for subsidies.

The clinic also provides transportation vouchers to patients from York County Access, the county’s only public transportation system that provides subsidized rides throughout most of the county.

“It’s an A-to-Z operation,” said Mickey Beckham, the clinic’s executive director of development. Beckham said the clinic’s funding strategy is similar to the way universities and colleges solicit grants and other private donors.

The clinic receives some state funding, but the majority comes from private, corporate and local sponsors.

The clinic leases its space from Grace Lutheran Church, located next door, but does not have debt on its equipment or property. Medical equipment and gently-used furniture were donated to outfit the facility.

Beckham said the clinic places a priority on active fundraising to ensure a stable funding stream for the facility and to stay financially solvent.

“It takes a lot of people to run a medical office,” Selz said.

The clinic has five staff members and relies on doctors and lab technicians to donate their time. The clinic’s receptionists are also all volunteers.

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