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Majority of Grace Clinic’s patients have jobs but no insurance

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Cardiologist Dr. Iyad Jamali checks Angela’s pulse at Grace Clinic during a followup visit. He volunteers at Grace Clinic and practices at Kadlec Clinic – Inland Cardiology in Richland. Angela’s last name was not released to protect her privacy. (Courtesy Grace Clinic)

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The majority of patients Grace Clinic serves are working hard at their jobs to make ends meet – but they don’t have health insurance.

They arrive at the Kennewick Clinic seeking free medical care from a team of compassionate medical professionals who volunteer their time.

“Most of our patients and many of our volunteers work in local businesses…By providing free health care, we are literally strengthening the workforce by helping people work and take care of their families,” said Avonte Jackson, director of the Grace Clinic.

The Tri-Cities’ only free healthcare clinic turned 20 this summer and recently celebrated its 100,000th patient visit.

“What’s important to understand is that 100,000 times someone has come in to access a service they wouldn’t otherwise have,” said Grace Clinic CEO Mark Brault, who has been named Tri-Citian of the Year 2022.

Meet a community need

The clinic provides free urgent medical, dental, mental health counseling, telehealth, prescription assistance, and pantry access to low-income residents of Benton and Franklin and Burbank counties, who is located in Walla Walla County. Their patients’ annual income must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or $55,500 for a family of four.

More than 32,000 Tri-Citians lack health insurance, just over 10% of the population, according to Grace Clinic estimates.

Brault said 96% of Grace Clinic patients are workers.

“Nobody else wants them, but we want them,” said Andrea McMakin, communications coordinator for Grace Clinic.

Brault said when people don’t have access to health insurance, access to health care is significantly limited because many providers won’t see uninsured patients.

As a survey of Grace Clinic patients found, between 52% and 56% seek care in an emergency room if the clinic did not exist.

Federal law legally requires emergency rooms to attend to those seeking care, but ER is one of the most expensive health care options and is not intended to treat non-emergency issues. or chronic diseases.

As Brault explained, hospitals provide charity care, but the costs associated with unpaid care are usually passed on to people with private insurance, because that’s the only place where prices can be increased when they face Medicare and flat-rate Medicaid.

“So when we keep people out of the hospital, there are fewer costs that need to be shifted,” he said, stressing that Grace Clinic does not compete with hospitals, but supports them by providing the services that uninsured patients need but can’t get elsewhere.

Reza Kaleel, Executive Director of Providence of Southeast Washington, agreed, “Grace Clinic plays a key role in our community’s health care safety net, providing care to underserved residents. It does so in a way that fits perfectly with Kadlec and Providence’s vision of healthcare for a better world.

Bridging the gap

Grace Clinic is able to accomplish its mission through the support of donors and the efforts of its 200-250 active volunteers from the local medical community – most of whom are still working – who serve in the clinic between once a week and once per month, depending on how much time they have available to give.

“They really enjoy spending time at the clinic because they really enjoy doing what they love without the hassle of billing and all the stuff that goes on in a traditional medical practice,” said Brault, a volunteer himself. . “They can just focus on the patient and apply their skills in a comfortable, low-pressure environment and help people they might not necessarily be able to see in their own practice.”

The value of labor over the past 20 years — if it had been paid — would total more than $8 million and 215,000 hours, Brault said.

Manuel meets with Dr. Joshua Lum at the Grace Clinic to monitor a chronic illness. He said he wanted to stay strong like the superhero on his T-shirt. Lum is a family medicine specialist who volunteers at the Grace Clinic and practices at a Kadlec Clinic in Kennewick. Manuel’s last name has been withheld to protect his privacy (Courtesy of Grace Clinic)

The value of services provided during this period exceeds $35 million.

“For every $100 donation, patients receive over $430 in services,” he said.

Additionally, Grace Clinic provides the opportunity for nursing and medical students working in residency at local hospitals to simultaneously complete their studies and also contribute to a charitable cause.

“In this particular community, we are really short of clinical staff, doctors, nurses and mental health counsellors. We help fuel the pipeline of healthcare professionals in the community. There aren’t a day when we don’t have someone in the clinic in the middle of training. Most days there are multiple people,” Brault said.

Bevan Briggs, Academic Director of Washington State University Tri-Cities College of Nursing, called Grace Clinic a critical partner for WSU Tri-Cities College of Nursing.

“Students in our nurse practitioner and pre-licensing nursing programs have clinical experiences there. In an environment where the clinical placement of students is extremely difficult and extremely important, they provide an excellent learning environment,” he said.

Dr. Cindie Preszler, director of counseling at Grace Clinic, said that since 2010, 22 of her counseling interns have joined local businesses or opened their own practices locally.

“Not only does this expand mental health treatment capacity in the Tri-Cities, it also increases the business economy of our community,” she said.

Jackson, who recently received the Athena Leadership Award from the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the clinic is a great example of the relationship between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

Humble beginnings

Grace Clinic was started in June 2002 in the basement of First United Methodist Church in Pasco by Drs. Carol Endo and Cheryl Snyder, local doctors who would see patients in need for free for four hours each Saturday.

Ten years later, the clinic expanded to its current location in the former Benton Franklin Health District building, 800 W. Canal Drive in Kennewick. It began operating four days a week and offered diabetes care as well as mental health and dental services.

Five years later, in 2017, Grace Clinic was open five days a week, and third-year residents graduated from Kadlec Regional Medical Center, and Trios Health hospitals began rotating there.

Future expansion

Brault said his dental program will be expanded in the new year. “We mostly do urgent dental work – extractions, abscesses. After the first of the year we will…be able to do more routine dentistry.

He said Grace Clinic is also working on a mental health expansion that will take place next year.

“To grow and expand what we do, we need to broaden our base of support, both in terms of funding and volunteers. In a for-profit operation, you expand here and that generates more revenue, but for us, when we expand, it creates more costs,” Brault said.

He said the clinic is funded primarily by individuals, service clubs and the wider community.

Basin Pacific Insurance and Benefits is one such community donor.

“Grace Clinic is a testament to how we should all serve those in need in our community. … We have supported Grace Clinic both personally and through our business because Grace Clinic embodies what true community service should be. If you have never visited Grace Clinic, you owe it to yourself and others to do so. You will be inspired,” said Brad Toner, managing partner at Basin Pacific.

Grace Clinic: 800 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick; 509-735-2300; gracecliniconline.org; Facebook, Instagram

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