The majority of Grace Clinic’s patients have jobs but no insurance
The majority of the patients that Grace Clinic serves work hard at their jobs to make ends meet — but they don’t have health insurance.
They arrive at the Kennewick Clinic seeking free medical care provided by a team of compassionate medical professionals who volunteer.
“Most of our patients and many of our volunteers work in local businesses…By providing free health care, we literally empower the workforce by helping people work and provide for their families,” said Avonte Jackson, director of the Grace Clinic .
The Tri-Cities’ only free health clinic turned 20 this summer and recently celebrated its 100,000th birthday. patient visit.
“It’s important to understand that 100,000 times someone walked in to access a service they wouldn’t otherwise have,” said Mark Brault, CEO of Grace Clinic, who was named 2022 Tri-Citian of the Year.
Fulfilling a community need
The clinic provides free medical, urgent dental, mental health counseling, telemedicine, prescription assistance and access to grocery supplies to low-income residents of Benton and Franklin counties and Burbank, located in Walla Walla County. Their patients’ annual income must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty line or $55,500 for a family of four.
The Grace Clinic estimates that more than 32,000 Tri-Citians have no health insurance, or just over 10% of the population.
According to Brault, 96% of Grace Clinic patients are employed.
“Nobody else wants them, but we want them,” said Andrea McMakin, Grace Clinic’s communications coordinator.
Brault said when people don’t have access to health insurance, access to healthcare is severely limited because many providers don’t see uninsured patients.
According to a survey of Grace Clinic patients, between 52% and 56% go to an emergency room if the clinic doesn’t exist.
Federal law legally requires emergency rooms to care for care seekers, but the emergency room is one of the most expensive healthcare options and is not intended to solve problems that don’t surface or deal with chronic illnesses.
As Brault explained, hospitals provide some of the charity care, but the costs associated with uncompensated care are usually shifted to those with private insurance, as that’s the only place prices can increase when they’re on Medicare and Medicaid be confronted with fixed sentences.
“So if we keep people out of the hospital, there’s less of a cost to pass through,” he said, emphasizing that Grace Clinic doesn’t compete with hospitals but supports them by providing the services that uninsured patients need but can’t to get elsewhere.
Providence of Southeast Washington Chief Executive Officer Reza Kaleel agreed, “The Grace Clinic plays a key role in our community’s health care safety net by serving underserved residents. It does so in a way that fits Kadlec and Providence’s vision of health for a better world very well.”
Closing the gap
Grace Clinic is able to fulfill its mission through donor support and the efforts of its 200 to 250 active volunteers from the local medical community – most of whom are still working – who work at the clinic between once a week and once a month, based on how much time they have available.
“They really enjoy spending time at the clinic because they really enjoy doing what they love without the hassle of billing and everything else that goes with a traditional doctor’s office,” said Brault, himself a volunteer. “They can just focus on the patient and use their skills in a comfortable, low-pressure environment and help people they wouldn’t necessarily see in their own practice.”
The value of the work over the past 20 years — if it had been paid — would total more than $8 million and 215,000 hours, Brault said.
The value of services provided during this period exceeds $35 million.
“For every $100 donation, patients receive more than $430 in services,” he said.
In addition, the Grace Clinic offers nursing and medical students who are working on their residency at local hospitals the opportunity to complete their residency while also contributing to a worthy cause.
“In this community in particular, we have a real shortage of adequate clinical staff, doctors, nurses and mental health counselors. We help feed the pipeline of medical professionals in the community. There isn’t a day when we don’t have someone in the clinic in the middle of training. There are multiple people present most days,” Brault said.
Bevan Briggs, academic director at Washington State University’s Tri-Cities College of Nursing, called the Grace Clinic an essential partner for the WSU College of Nursing at WSU Tri-Cities.
“Students in our Nurse Practitioner and Pre-Licensure nursing programs have clinical experience there. In an environment where clinical placement is extremely difficult and extremely important for students, they provide an excellent learning environment,” he said.
dr Cindie Preszler, Grace Clinic’s consulting director, said that since 2010, 22 of her consulting interns have joined local businesses or opened their own on-site practices.
“This not only expands mental health treatment capacity in the Tri-Cities, but also improves the business economy of our community,” she said.
Jackson, who recently received the Athena Leadership Award from the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the clinic is an excellent example of the relationship between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.
The Grace Clinic was founded in June 2002 in the basement of First United Methodist Church in Pasco by Dr. Carol Endo and Cheryl Snyder, local doctors who treated patients in need free of charge for four hours every Saturday.
Ten years later, the clinic expanded to its current location in the former Benton Franklin Health District Building at 800 W. Canal Drive in Kennewick. It began operating four days a week, offering diabetic care as well as mental health and dental services.
Five years later, in 2017, the Grace Clinic was open five days a week and third-year residents were completing their training at Kadlec Regional Medical Center, and Trios Health’s hospitals began rotations there.
Brault said its dental program will expand in the new year. “We mainly do urgent dental work – extractions, abscesses. After the first year we will be … able to do more routine dentistry.”
He said the Grace Clinic is also working on a mental health expansion that will take place next year.
“In order to grow and expand what we do, we need to expand our support base, both in terms of funding and volunteers. In a for-profit business, you expand here and it generates more revenue, but it costs us more as we expand,” Brault said.
He said the clinic is funded primarily by individuals, service clubs and the wider community.
Basin Pacific Insurance and Benefits is one such community donor.
“Grace Clinic is a testament to how we should all serve those in need in our community. … We have supported the Grace Clinic both personally and through our business because the Grace Clinic embodies what true community service should be. If you have never visited the Grace Clinic, you owe it to yourself and others. They’re going to love it,” said Brad Toner, Managing Partner at Basin Pacific.
Grace Clinic: 800 W Canal Drive, Kennewick; 509-735-2300; Gracecliniconline.org; Facebook, Instagram