'We're their lifeline'

Although 7 million Americans have now signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, a local free health clinic is seeing a continued need of its services.
Krystle Wagner
Apr 19, 2014

On any given Thursday, volunteer medical providers see a dozen or more uninsured patients during the Love INC Free Health Clinic. It takes place at the former Ottawa County Health Department location, 16920 Ferris St. in Grand Haven Township.

While client numbers dropped in recent weeks, clinic coordinator Erin VanStelle said that could have been caused by the weather or spring break vacations, and not necessarily from residents signing up for insurance.

The health clinic was launched in 2010 to provide services for patients with a variety of needs such as prescription refills, diabetes, high blood pressure or other existing conditions. Recently, many patients have been coming in with upper respiratory problems, coughs and colds.

VanStelle said they are also seeing patients who are in “limbo,” in that they have signed up for health insurance but haven’t yet seen a primary care physician because they can’t afford it.

“For some patients, we’re their lifeline,” she said.

In order to use the clinic’s services, patients must be age 18-65; uninsured; and live, work or worship in Northwest Ottawa County.

The 2011 Ottawa County Community Health Needs Assessment found that some of the barriers between residents and health care were the cost and/or lack of health insurance, inability to pay out-of-pocket expenses such as co-pays and deductibles, and lack of specific providers in the area.

While residents cited a variety of reasons why they didn’t have insurance, 46 percent said they couldn’t afford it, and 26.4 percent said they lost their job and with it their health care coverage.

Spring Lake resident David McVicar said he considers himself lucky to have found the clinic. Currently unemployed and uninsured, McVicar said he’s sought medical help at the clinic for his knee, and the clinic has provided him with physical therapy, MRI and X-ray services.

If it wasn’t for the clinic, McVicar said he didn’t know what he would do.

“It’s been a godsend,” he said.

Although walk-ins might be seen, VanStelle said they ask that appointments are made so the staff has an idea of how many people they will be seeing ahead of time. Residents who need assistance can make appointments by calling 616-502-2658.

To read the whole story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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