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Clinic back on financial track

January 04, 2007|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - A Hagerstown clinic that provides free health care reopened its doors to new patients Tuesday, after making up a $170,000 deficit that prevented the facility from treating new clients.

The Community Free Clinic made the announcement Wednesday morning.

The facility at 249 Mill St., which operates through donations, stopped taking new patients in July because of budget woes. Service for existing patients did not stop.

Clinic officials said contributions from the City of Hagerstown, Washington County Commissioners, and other organizations and individuals helped reduce the deficit.

"We have to find a solid revenue source that will allow the Community Free Clinic to do what they do," Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said.

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The city and county each contributed $50,000 to the clinic for the current fiscal year. The Washington County Gaming Commission awarded the clinic a grant of $175,000.

The clinic provides free medical care, prescription medicine and lab work - on a budget of less than $400,000 - for uninsured Hagerstown and Washington County residents, clinic board president Jullie Caniford said. There is no set funding source for the facility, which can cause difficulties with the operating budget, clinic officials said.

Michael Stanford, a clinic board member, said the facility could end up with another deficit July 1, the start of next fiscal year.

Bruchey said the city plans to lobby the state for help in "solidifying a continuing source of revenue for the Community Free Clinic."

Clinic Executive Director Robin Roberson said 80 percent of the facility's patients are people who work full time but have no health insurance through their employer.

"These are people who contribute to our community, so we have to make sure we take care of them, too," Bruchey said.

For those who don't or can't contribute, "We have to take care of them also," he said.

He said the city will continue to support the clinic through donations, grants or through fundraisers.

In 2005, the clinic had 16,670 patient visits, a 49 percent increase over the year before, Roberson said. The increase caused the deficit, she said.

Roberson said the clinic has 3,000 to 4,000 active patients.

"There continues to be a large demand for our service," Roberson said.

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