The Uninsured Find Help in Michigan’s Free Clinics

Patricia Hubbell

| 3 min read

Free clinics are the unsung heroes of the health care safety net. They help people who have nowhere else to turn. When I stopped by St. Frances Cabrini Clinic in Detroit to find out more about the services they provide to the uninsured, patients kept saying, “This place is a godsend.”
There are approximately 60 free clinics in Michigan. These beacons of hope across the state serve more than 7,500 uninsured citizens every month, providing care for an average of 204 patients, according to the Free Clinics of Michigan nonprofit. Some clinics see more than 600 patients each month. They also keep people out of hospital emergency rooms, providing quality health care at a fraction of the cost.
Here are some additional facts about the free clinics in Michigan:
  • Unlike federally qualified health centers, free clinics receive no government funding.
  • They are operated and staffed almost entirely by volunteers.
  • More than half of the free clinics have hospital or health system affiliations. Many are church sponsored.
  • The average budget of a free clinic in Michigan is less than $190, 000.
  • Services provided include primary care services for children and adults, mental health care, prescription assistance, dental, patient education programs, specialty services, optometry services, and social services.
  • Many free clinics receive in-kind diagnostic services such as labs and x-rays from local hospitals.
Free clinics provide the only means of access to health care for many Michigan families. Cabrini is just one of 53 clinics receiving grants from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to continue their important work in communities across the state.
Stephen Herron turned to Cabrini Clinic when he became uninsured. Stephen works part-time as a cab driver. When he became diabetic four years ago, Henry Ford Hospital referred him to Cabrini because he had no insurance.
St. Frances Cabrini Clinic helped him determine the medical care he needed to manage his diabetes, teaching him how to check and lower his sugar levels. Stephen receives free medical supplies from the clinic.
“Without Cabrini Clinic I’m not sure where I’d turn,” he said. “If this place closed, I got no idea what I would do because I’ve priced some of the medicines I take, and my scripts could be in the neighborhood of $600 a month.
“This place is a godsend… if I get fortunate enough that I can take care of myself, I would try to come up with some money to put towards this place.”
This is, indeed, soulful work. “It is hard to do what we do,” said Pam Haratsis, executive director of The Gary Burnstein clinic in Pontiac. “Funding is always being sought, fundraising is always being done and the need just keeps coming. I have a very hard time turning those in need away.
“I pray I never need the services we provide here…. We see people everyday who never thought they would need us or someone like us. It is very humbling to do this work. It is so important to be here and I am so blessed to be a part of this.”
Are you uninsured? Do you know anyone who has lost his or her health insurance? Where do they turn when they need medical care?
Photo by jamesfischer

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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