Free clinic moves into new home

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By April Wright, Reporter

At the non-profit Free Clinic of the Twin Counties, volunteers stay busy filing patient paperwork and working the front desk and the new lab at the 2,200-square foot facility.

The Free Clinic had been on Oldtown Street in a 1,200-square foot facility since 2007, but has now relocated to an office building at 140 Larkspur Lane in Galax and re-opened June 1.

“We were running out of space and could only have so many in the office,” said Dina Slusher, executive director of the clinic. “We just needed more office space to accommodate everybody.

The new office will allow the Free Clinic's two healthcare providers to work at the same time.

Slusher showed that the Free Clinic, which provides medical treatment for low-income patients and the uninsured, is set up more like a medical office than ever before. There's a filing room, a conference room, a place for a pharmacy, office space for volunteers and workers, a couple of treatment rooms and a lab.

Patients will be able to enter and check in at one door, and then sign out and exit at another.

There is more room for volunteers and professional helpers, and Slusher said there is now enough office room for pharmacy and dental coordinators.

Unlike before, handicapped patients will be able to park at and come in the front door.

“We loved where we were,” said Slusher of the former downtown location. “It gave us room to spread our wings and grow and attract more professional volunteers...

“Many thanks go to Danny Cockerham, who leased the building to the clinic for almost three years. The need for more space became apparent as more patients began to need assistance.”

At the Oldtown location, smoking cessation and diabetic education classes were held in the storage area. Now, patients will be able to meet comfortably in an air-conditioned conference room.

Before the move, Slusher was talking to an acquaintance about the lack of office space an the Oldtown location. Her friend, a building owner, said he had the perfect location.

“He is willing to help and go out of his way to make it work for us,” said Slusher.

Operational costs for the Free Clinic are generally $12,000 a month, but the new location should not increase the Free Clinic's cost, due to a gracious landlord.

Slusher said she hopes to soon open the dental clinic, which already has the equipment in place.

The biggest expense is supplies, she said.

Also, dental hygienists, dental assistants and dentists are needed to begin the program. The dental clinic already has a waiting list of 400.

There is also a shortage of nurse volunteers at the clinic and a need for office volunteers, Christian pastors and mental health counselors.

In 2009, the clinic served 543 patients, with more than 100 diabetics.

The clinic has already seen 391 patients from Jan. 1 through mid-May. Last year, the clinic saw 360 patients during that same time period.

In 2009, the clinic also provided 4,242 prescriptions, totaling $18,438, and assisted patients in obtaining free prescription drugs in partnership with the local health department and the Mount Rogers Medication Assistance Program.

“We have been successful in building relationships with other community non-profit organizations, as well as health centers, Twin County Regional Hospital, Carilion and area medical specialists and facilities,” said Slusher. “Numerous individuals have volunteered with fundraisers, renovation and service projects.”

The Free Clinic of the Twin Counties is at 140 Larkspur Lane, Suite C, in Galax. For more information or to volunteer, call 236-0421.

Donations may be sent to Free Clinic of the Twin Counties, P.O. Box 1708, Galax, Va. 24333.