Encore September 2015

Page 17

encore good works

A New Free Clinic

Faiths come together to meet community need by

Robert M. Weir

From left: Lucinda Stinson, the Rev. Dr. Randall Warren and Joe Bower stand in front of the mobile clinic that will temporarily serve as a free clinic in Kalamazoo.

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hen it comes to health care, 10,000 to 15,000 Kalamazoo County residents are believed to be uninsured, underinsured or undocumented, says Lucinda M. Stinson, deputy director of community services in the county’s Health & Community Services Department. Stinson further estimates that 20 percent of these residents — more than 2,000 annually — would visit a free health care clinic if one were available. Thanks to the initiative of Stinson and many other deeply dedicated persons, such a clinic — the United Interfaith Free Health Care Clinic of Kalamazoo County (UIFC) — will soon be operating. The area used to have a free clinic, the Free Clinic of Kalamazoo, which closed in 2010 after organizers determined the clinic was duplicating services already available in the community. But the Rev. Dr. Randall Warren, priest at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and executive director of UIFC, says a clinic to serve this population is still necessary for the physical and emotional health of disadvantaged individuals as well as the social and economic health of the community. “Regardless of where you stand on the issue of affordable health care or of undocumented folks having health insurance,” Warren

says, “the simple fact is that everyone without insurance who goes into a medical crisis, receives treatment in a hospital emergency room and can’t afford to pay (for it) raises the cost for all and adds stress to the community’s health care system.” Warren and Stinson, who served as UIFC executive director prior to her employment with Kalamazoo County, say that the name of the United Interfaith Free Health Care Clinic defines its purpose. “We want this clinic to be all-inclusive, not a clinic that sees some but not others. Therefore, the word ‘united’ came to mind,” Stinson says. “Also, all of us involved have a faith-based compass, regardless of our chosen religion. Therefore, we included the word ‘interfaith.’” In regard to the word “free,” Warren emphasizes that all the world’s religions espouse free health care as a basic human right. “Buddha didn’t charge people to heal them. Muhammad didn’t tell people he needed money to pray for them,” he says. And Stinson points out that Jesus helped both the rich and the poor, all at no cost. The clinic will be staffed entirely by volunteers. It will also be an affiliate of Volunteers in Medicine (VIM), a national organization that works with individuals and groups interested in developing free health care clinics for the uninsured in their local communities. Warren adds that volunteers’ efforts, along with medical supplies donated by the community, will enable the clinic to also be “free” of government sponsorship. “The moment we take a cent from the government, there are limits on who we can see, and we don’t want there to be any limits,” he says. The clinic will be located at First Baptist Church, 315 W. Michigan Ave.. “This is near the hub where homeless and uninsured people w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 17


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