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Free clinic facing cash concerns

December 09, 2002|By MARLO BARNHART

Like a bad roll of the dice, a change in how the Washington County Gaming Commission gives out its money is having a devastating effect on the Community Free Clinic in Hagerstown.

"They've changed the cycle this year," said Jeff Downin, executive director of the agency located at 18 W. Franklin St. Instead of giving out money twice a year, starting in August of this year, the commission will only distribute it once annually, he said.

The problem is the legislative cap on donations to single agencies, which is set at $50,000 per dispersal, Downin said. "We usually get about $100,000 a year from the commission but this year, we are expecting no more than about $53,000."

Under the semi-annual dispersal, the clinic received $45,000 for one request and an additional $10,000 for a separate prescription program in February.

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Then in August, another $52,916.65 came in from the commission.

"Now there won't be another dispersal until August 2003," Downin said. "We could be looking at a budget deficit by June."

Even with the concerns he is facing, Downin said the gaming money has been and will continue to be a lifesaver for the clinic.

Another potential shortfall could come when endowments fail to produce as much income because they are impacted by the stock market, Downin said. "There will be some that won't have as much money to give away as they usually do."

Creative fund-raisers this year have included a mud volleyball game in July, which raised $20,000 for the clinic, as did part of a recent auction sponsored by the Sunrise Rotary Club.

Downin said the generous donations of individuals, organizations, churches and other local sources have sustained the clinic's work in past years and he expects that generosity will continue.

"We remain completely reliant on that generosity," Downin said in the holiday newsletter sent out to all who have supported the clinic in the past.

It's those people who continue to give money and volunteer their time to ensure that the clinic stays open to assist more than 10,000 people who came there for medical care last year, Downin said.

Now in its 13th year of operation, the Community Free Clinic will see any uninsured resident of Washington County. Primary health care is provided, along with extensive medication assistance.

In addition to regular provider and nurse clinics, special clinics for diabetes monitoring, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedic care and podiatry are available.

For more information, call 301-733-9234.

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