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Jefferson County free clinic formally opens

September 27, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A clinic designed to offer free medical care to people who cannot afford health care officially opened at its new location Thursday.

But as Leona Richards was telling visitors, the idea is not entirely new in Jefferson County.

During an open house for the Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic, officials there paid tribute to another doctor who used to look out for those in need.

Physician Mildred Williams, who practiced in the area from 1949 to 1986, often provided medical care to those who could not afford it, said Richards, a family nurse practitioner who pushed for the free clinic after she saw firsthand how people were struggling to meet high health-care costs.

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In return for Williams' services, patients often paid her with peaches or apples, Richards said.

People used to line up on Williams' porch on her house on Congress Street waiting for free medical care, Richards said.

"She was like her own little free clinic. She was my inspiration," Richards said.

One of the four exam rooms at the free clinic on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard west of the city is named in honor of Williams.

The room contains the exam table, foot stool and other equipment that Williams donated to the free clinic, Richards said.

While working as a home health-care nurse, Richards saw how people were skipping medications or spreading out intake of medications because they could not afford them.

Richards was able to convince local doctors to volunteer their time at the clinic to see patients. The clinic recently was awarded a $393,000 grant to run the clinic.

About 20 doctors in the area have now agreed to see patients for free at the center, Richards said.

The clinic is open Mondays from noon to 8 p.m., Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon.

Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to call 304-724-6091.

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