Thirteen years later, the Helping Hands Health Clinic in Elkton has lived up to it’s name by reaching out and “lending a helping hand” to the many people who hold a job, but cannot afford health insurance. The board of directors, employees and volunteers of the clinic dedicate more than just their time, but also their hearts to a project that began in 1999 and has surpassed expectations along the way.
The clinic began 13 years ago when a priest and a soon to be nun found there was a need for medical services in the area for those who wanted to help themselves, but just couldn’t afford to purchase insurance. Since then, and several thousand patients later, many others have jumped on board to help keep the doors open and the services coming.
Helping Hands executive director, Anita Powell has been serving on the board of directors since the clinic’s beginning. She has been in the director’s seat for six months now and feels her involvement to be a blessing. Powell is no stranger to the medical field, she is a registered nurse that comes with lots of experience.
“I feel we can help so many people through the clinic and because of the caring people involved, it is making a difference,” said Powell. “In a sense we are saving lives and that is what makes it all worth it.”
In the month of June, the clinic gave $172,672 worth of services, which calculates to approximately $2 million a year given away to those who are in need.
The clinic sees the working uninsured. This means that someone in the family/household must be working to be eligible for services.
The household must also be at the federally determined 185 percent of poverty level. The clinic will see those people who have applied for disability but have not yet been approved and uninsured, those drawing unemployment benefits, abused spouses in the care of or released from Sanctuary House or anyone who is released from incarceration for up to six months from date of release, are all eligible.
“Working is defined as earning some type of income through work, whether it be seasonal work, providing childcare services, cleaning houses, etc., it does not have to be a full-time permanent job,” said Powell.
The clinic serves the communities of Todd, Logan and Muhlenberg counties.
The services provided include: basic medical visits with a MD and APRN, visits with psychologists, injections, many medications and help with the completion of proper forms to obtain other free medical services.
The clinic also provides vision and dental services.
“We have agreements with Logan Eye Care and Sites Vision Clinic. We make every effort for our diabetics to have yearly exams and for acute problems that our providers feel a referral is necessary,” said Powell. There is a $200 life-time limit for vision services.
The clinic also has agreements with Dr. Dale Clark, and will pay up to a $200 life-time max for any patient that has acute dental needs, such as pain, abscesses, and extractions.
There is a medication assist program and a lab test program. The clinic assists with ascertaining other services such as Sight for Students, the Ky Vision Project, SafeLink, Wireless Cellphones and the Western Ky Hearing Aide Clinic.
They act as a referral to St. Thomas and Jennie Stuart Medical Center to provide a specific number of certain radiology exams per month at no charge or at a reduce cost. Also, when a patient is in need of a cardiac work up or a surgery consult, in many cases the clinic has an agreement with the MDs from Nashville and Hopkinsville for reduced costs of initial visits and in many cases the clinic pays the initial fee.
The clinic is able to provide these services by donations from the private sector and from funds generated from charitable Bingo in Tiny Town.
Helping Hands Health Clinic is a 503c, not for profit entity. This allows them to operate Bingo two nights per week. It requires at least six volunteers eight hours each night to run each session. The profits from Bingo is what has, over the past seven years, helped to fund the clinic.
“Some people or groups of people may frown and think of this as gambling, but without this source of fund raising, there would be no Helping Hands Health Clinic to provide the services to those with needs,” said Powell.
The clinic has four full-time employees, two part-time employees, in addition to the APRN and MD.
“In the month of June, we recorded volunteer hours at 564,” said Powell. “The paid employees run the clinic and the volunteers are the support, in which we could not operate the clinic as efficiently as it is unless we have volunteers,” said Powell.
Long serving board member and former Elkton Mayor, Bryan Blount, says he is proud to have been a part of the clinic all these years. “When we began, we didn’t even have a budget,” said Blount, who wishes more people knew about the clinic. “Some people think it’s too good to be true and won’t even come in the front door. I know we are doing a lot of good for people who probably wouldn’t get it any other way,” added Blount.
Nurse Practitioner Higgins has been working at the clinic for five years and she says it’s been amazing to see so many people being helped. She said she never dreamed of working for a clinic when in school, but is very glad she is where she is today.
“We do whatever it takes to get it done,” said Higgins.
Powell says they don’t see an end in sight for the clinic. She just hopes people keep donating so the doors can stay open and they can serve as many that come through them.
“It’s a true mission and we have been very blessed,” said Powell.