Jefferson Memorial Hospital Part of Clinic’s Beginning
RANSON, W.Va. – Providing quality health care to low-income and uninsured area residents is the mission of the Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic. For the past ten years, hundreds of community volunteers and local businesses have shared their time, talent, and money to transform what was a dream for many back in the late 90s into what is now a medical home for over 2800 patients in seven Eastern Panhandle counties.\
The need for access to health care services for the uninsured and underinsured in Jefferson County was identified via a community needs assessment conducted in 1998 by a community health initiative spearheaded by Jefferson Memorial Hospital known as Healthier Jefferson County. Representatives from various health and human service organizations in Jefferson County joined forces with the hospital to identify and prioritize basic health and lifestyle needs.
Access to health care services for the uninsured and underinsured quickly rose to the top of the list of priorities. It was then that the dream of a community free clinic staffed with volunteer medical providers and partners was born. A local nurse practitioner, Leona Richards Cook, took ownership of the project along with a handful of community leaders and health professionals which included Dr. Rosemarie Cannarella, Susan Walter, Rusty Morgan and Healthier Jefferson County Chairwoman Judy Miller Jones.
In 2001, the Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic opened its doors. With the support of Jefferson Memorial Hospital and the community at large, the Clinic opened one day per week. The initial space was small, but free and provided by the hospital. It was an all-volunteer effort, including the health professionals who donated their time to staff the Clinic.
The need was so great that the number of patients grew quickly. It soon became necessary to expand to a larger space and to hire a skeleton staff to supplement the volunteers. This enabled the Clinic to be open more hours per week.A request for funding, which was a matching grant program, was submitted to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Initial funding partners believed in the Clinic’s mission and committed to provide financial support over the four year grant period.
As patient volumes grew, so did the need for a larger space. In 2002, the clinic moved to a 2,400 square foot facility on Route 51 in Charles Town. The number of patients continued to increase as the existence of the Clinic became better known, and as more and more people became affected by unemployment and underemployment.
On July 13, 2009, the Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic moved to its current home in Ranson. Building space has tripled, providing ample space to handle the growing number of patients that are in need of quality health care services. Paid staff now totals 19, still supported by many volunteers from the community who help provide comprehensive quality medical care.
Over the past ten years, the Clinic’s goals have remained simple..to provide free medical care, free medications, free referrals to medical specialists, and referrals to appropriate community support organizations. The Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic is an example of how a community rallied and still rallies together to provide neighbors in need access to quality health care services.
For more information about the Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic, visit the web site at www.wvepfc.com or call (304) 724-6091.