Parlays Volunteers, Donations, CDBG Funding into Health Care for Low
May 15, 2000
The Southeast section of
Canton is an area of about 17,000 residents; nearly half are minorities and
one-third are living below the poverty level. The residents of this
community generally lack the ability to pay for medical services and, until
six years ago, had been geographically isolated from primary health care
providers: The four primary care physicians in the area at that time were
not located near the Southeast residents who may have needed them.
In response to the
problem of nearly nonexistent primary health care for the poor residents of
the Southeast community, Canton Mayor Richard Watkins called for the
cooperation and support of all sectors of the City in the development of a
community clinic. This resulted in a local bank donating a building which
was located in the heart of Southeast Canton, the City providing Community
Development Block Grant funds to remodel it, and area doctors and hospitals
donating all the facility's furnishings, medical equipment and supplies.
The Canton Community
Clinic opened in September 1994, and in the year that followed, 11 volunteer
doctors served more than 2,850 patients. A dental wing opened in March 1996
to a waiting list of 400 persons, many of whom were to receive dental care
and oral hygiene treatment for the first time in their lives. That year,
about 6,000 patients had medical and dental appointments and participated in
the Clinic's new prevention, or wellness, program. The following year, with
an expanded wellness program, about 9,000 patients were served.
In 1998, when more than
14,000 were served, over 70 wellness programs and related follow-up services
were provided. In 1999, when service levels topped 15,000, there were more
than 90 health outreach programs. Also, by 1999, the number of volunteer
physicians and dentists had grown to well over 50. In fact, the Clinic
operates with only three paid positions; all of its doctors, dentists,
nurses and other workers are volunteers.
More than 85 percent of
the low income patients coming to the Clinic lack the means to pay for
primary health care and have no ties to any other resource or governmental
agency. Three of every four are unemployed; one of every four is considered
working poor. "The Canton Community Clinic is a success story that is
meeting the needs of Canton's low-income and no-income citizens," says
Mayor Watkins. "The volunteer health care professionals and the community
support are the keys to its success."
While CDBG funds cover
the Clinic's operational costs for the 80 percent of the patients who
reside in Canton, and the United Way and other foundations cover the costs
for patients from outside the City, these costs represent a fraction of the
actual value of the medical services rendered - and the fraction gets
smaller each year. In 1996, for example, with a budget of $170,000, a
half-million dollars in health care services were provided. In 1997, when
the budget increased to $212,000, $1.3 million in services were provided. In
1998, with just $9,000 added to the budget, services rendered jumped to more
than $2 million. Last year, with no increase in the budget, the value of
services rendered jumped again, to $3 million.
And other benefits to
patients have increased over the years of Clinic operation: In its first
year, only one of every 20 patients could be given medicines free of charge;
beginning in 1998, all patients received all the free medicines they needed.
This was made possible that year with more than $500,000 in donated
medicines; in 1999, the Clinic dispensed more than $750,000 in donated
The Clinic recovers
approximately $4,000 annually from Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance
programs providing coverage for patients. Cash grants from local businesses,
foundations and other sources are designated for specific services - health
care for pre-school children, diabetes treatment and mammography, for
example. Over the years, these grants have made it possible for the Clinic
to offer an increasing number of programs tailored to the needs of area
Two fund-raisers are
held each year for the benefit of the Clinic, with the proceeds invested by
a local foundation in an endowment fund. When the fund's principal reaches
$3 million, it will pay the Clinic $200,000 annually - enough to make it
self-sufficient. At this point, the City will no longer provide funding.
Clinic President Mary
Cain says there are a "thousand thousand" success stories to be told, some
major, some minor. Examples, she says, are found in the hundreds of child
health screenings done over the past two years and in "the positive
activities that health physicals promote for those needy youngsters who want
to play in a sport but can't afford $50 to $90 for a required physical."
The Canton clinic is now
one of 10 free clinics in Ohio. Second only to the Cleveland Free Clinic in
terms of patient population and scope of treatment, it is the only facility
in the State to provide free, full time primary care for low income
patients, including full medical, dental, prevention and prescriptive
services. Last year, Clinic officials worked with Ohio Representatives Kirk
Schuring and Twyla Roman in a successful effort to retain the State's
immunity laws. These laws are of critical importance as they provide unpaid
health care workers in indigent programs - including the 55 doctors and
dentists serving the Clinic - with immunity from law suits.
on the Canton Community Clinic is available from Ms. Cain at (330) 454-2000.