Hope Clinic shares progress with state legislators
Ellis County Communications
WAXAHACHIE – Sen. Kip Averitt and Rep. Jim Pitts joined County officials for a tour of Hope Clinic Wednesday morning, where they heard about the Clinic’s partnership with Ellis County as well as its progress toward the goal of becoming a federally qualified health center.
"We’ve seen a good benefit from this public-private partnership, especially faith based," said Commissioner Heath Sims, pct. 3, noting the County has contracted with Hope Clinic for indigent health care since 2005. "It’s not an entitlement. There is accountability. There is responsibility. We see people coming in and realizing that there are people who care about them, and when they learn to care about themselves, then they step back up and get back into the work force."
Averitt said he had been looking forward to the tour. "This is the type of public-private partnership you love to see work," he said.
"I have heard nothing but outstanding – glowing – reviews. It takes local leadership to make this process work, for folks to get what they need."
Pitts has long been an active supporter of the clinic. "Hope Clinic has meant a lot to my family and I," said Pitts.
"We will be there to help at any time."
Mackie Owens, executive director of the clinic, said a small group of caring people saw the need for a free or reduced-fee clinic to serve the uninsured some eight years ago and quickly grew into an organization of more than 125 people.
The County was a partner early on, providing tobacco settlement funds and selling the organization a building for $1. In 2005, the partnership was solidified with a contract for primary care, pharmaceuticals, and case management for the county’s indigent health care clients.
"This year, the county commissioners have added dental service to the contract," Owens said. "We have two dental exam rooms, and we are about to hire a part time dentist to start seeing some of the 278 people on our waiting list."
Board President Todd Little thanked the legislators and county commissioners for recognizing the value of local initiative in providing health care for the poor and highlighted the importance of the dental component of the contract.
Another change this year was the hiring of a full-time, board-certified family practitioner, Dr. Mary Beth Felty.
"Dr. Felty and I were co-chairs of the group (that started the clinic)," Owens said.
"Now, we see about 4,000 patients a year and are able to provide real continuity of care."
State grant funds this year will provide for the hiring of a full-time nurse practitioner to assist Dr. Felty, in addition to the part-time dentist. A federal planning grant will provide the clinic with the ability to do a community wide needs assessment.
"That hasn’t been done in eight years," said Owens. "We estimate there are 23,000 people in the community that don’t have insurance."
The clinic enjoys broad support in the community and recently received over $11,000 from "Walking for Hope" – an event organized by volunteers as a show of support for a co-worker diagnosed with cancer. Dinah Weable, who manages the local offices of Representative Pitts, spearheads an annual fundraiser that donates thousands to the clinic to provide mammograms for those in need.
"Our Seeds of Hope banquet is coming up on November 11," Owens added.
"Congressman Barton is our keynote speaker, and Judge Adams is the emcee. We are hoping to raise the funds to finish out our budget."
County Judge Chad Adams said volunteerism, particularly among the medical community, is essential. "The volunteer time of the doctors is worth a great deal," he said.
"We estimate 28 doctors a month volunteer here."
Sims agreed. "The biggest key to the clinic is the word service," he said. "That’s what we don’t want to lose."
"It’s a labor of love," Owens said. "I get up every morning thinking I’ve got things to do."