Another Way You Can Contribute to a Healthy Community

By Tita de la Cruz and Maureen Callahan
Health Projects co-chairs

Free Health Clinic Resource Guide
Working on this project showed us the magnitude of the health care needs of our communities. Hopefully we can impart the opportunities for Alliance members to help in their communities. This young generation is steeped in community service throughout their education and our doctors and their spouses will continue that trend. Let us harness that altruism, but let us not “re-invent the wheel.” Let us use the “best practices” that are out there. Let us take advantage of the perception and reputation engendered by the Alliance from the many years of community service it has provided.

Over telephone conversations and emails, the Alliance’s health projects committee discussed the free clinics initiative that we began developing this year. There are many free clinics in almost every less affluent community in Pennsylvania that are serving the under-insured and more than 1 million uninsured Pennsylvanians (Families

Families whose income is 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($44,700 for a family of four) or a single adult making over 66 percent of the federal poverty level ($8,980) cannot access Medicaid. Pennsylvania has 10 free clinics using the Volunteers in Medicine model (or VIM model). They are located in Berwick, Butler, Corry, Erie, Lebanon, Pittsburgh, Southampton, State College, West Chester, and Wilkes-Barre. New Jersey has three: Cape May Court House, Hackensack and Red Bank.

There are 90 free clinics in 26 states and Betty Grey’s Columbia County Medical Clinic is No. 51. The need for free clinics will still be there even with the Affordable Health Care Act, according to Volunteers in Medicine.

The millennial generation as predicted due to the downturn of the economy, will be poorer than their parents. They, too, will need the services of free clinics. Some free clinics are faith-based and some are free standing and relying on community support and volunteers. Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) started this movement. The VIM model uses retired health care personnel volunteers.

Volunteers in Medicine began in Hilton Head, SC, in 1993. It was developed by Dr. Jack McConnell when he learned that one out of three working people in Hilton Head needed affordable medical care. He tells the story in his book, “Culture of Caring,” which will be sent to the interested developer of a free clinic along with a start-up guide, tip sheets, clinic support manual and a “Culture of Caring” DVD (which describes the unique culture of VIM clinics).

The VIM staff will be there from the beginning, during and opening of the clinic. VIM is a non-profit dedicated to assisting communities with the development of free health care clinics for the uninsured. McNeil Consumer Healthcare (Tylenol maker) supports VIM national office located in Burlington, Vt. For more information, visit or call (802) 651-0112.

VIM is partnering with AARP and the National Council of Churches Health Care Task Force and is collaborating with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The Medical Liability protection under the Federal Tort Claims Act will also cover officers, governing boards, employees and contractors of free clinics.

Health and Human Services is authorized to award five-year demonstration grants to states to develop alternative medical care. Funding will be available.

VIM clinics:

  • Columbia County Medical Clinic in Mifflinville, Pa., developed by Bette Grey in 2007 – took three years, phone number (570) 752-1780
  • Centre County Volunteers in Medicine, State College, Pa., started in 2003, phone number (814) 231-4043, 2003
  • Community Volunteers in Medicine, West Chester, Pa., started in 1998, (610) 836-5990
  • The Clinic, Phoenixville, Pa., with Dr. Lorna Stuart as its Medical Director was awarded the AMA Foundation Excellence in Medical Award, started in 2001, phone number (610) 935-1134
  • HealthLinks, Southampton, Pa., founded by Eugene Jackson, philanthropist, in 2002, phone number (215) 364-4247
  • St. Pauls, Erie, PA started in 1993 by Drs. Junco and Karpinsky (not church affiliated), phone number (814) 454-8755

What can the Alliance do?

  • Free clinics need medical and non-medical volunteers.
  • They rely on donations and the generosity of the community.
  • Each Alliance can adopt a free clinic and fund raise for it.

Health Projects Committee Members:
Tita de la Cruz, co-chair
Maureen Callahan, co-chair
Christine Bongiorno
Donna Rovito, ex-officio