Two Ashe County nonprofits, the Ashe Free Medical Clinic and the Ashe Medication Assistance Program, are working diligently with the help of volunteers, donors and grants to provide healthcare to the uninsured residents of the county.
The Ashe County Free Health Clinic (ACFMC) is entering its eighth year treating Ashe County residents who would otherwise not be able to afford adequate healthcare.
ACFMC, which is an all volunteer community outpatient medical clinic, was formed in 2006 by a grant given from Duke Divinity School to Ashe Outreach Ministries and Clifton United Methodist Church, with a mission “to understand and serve the health and wellness needs of the medically uninsured who live or work in Ashe County.”
Greg Bolac, director of ACFMC, said the clinic is funded by grants from Ashe Memorial Hospital and the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics, along with contributions from local donors.
ACFMC holds two major fundraisers each year: the Carl and Pearl Hagel Golf Tournament in April or May and the Festival of Tables held in August at the West Jefferson United Methodist Church.
The clinic has three part-time staff members, Bolac and two registered nurses; the remainder of the staff, from physicians and nurses to office administrators, is composed of volunteers.
Cathy Clark, a volunteer Physicians Assistant for ACFMC, said she enjoys being able to provide services to those community members in need.
“If the clinic was not available, several members of our community would be without healthcare,” Clark said, “All of the volunteers work hard to provide the best care possible and I feel honored to work alongside them.”
Last year the clinic saw 500 patients, many of which Bolac said were treated for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension.
“We have a very short waiting list, and we’re taking patients all of time,” Bolac said.
To qualify for treatment at ACFMC, patients must be between 19 and 64 years of age, reside or work in Ashe County, be uninsured and have a limited total family income. All patients must visit the clinic for a one time interview to review eligibility before being seen. Income and other qualification guidelines can be found at acfmc.org.
Housed in the same building with ACFMC is the Ashe Medication Assistance Program (AMAP). While the clinic and AMAP are separate entities with different funding sources, they often assist the same patients.
“Most of our patients do come from the Free Clinic, but we see patients from all doctors,” Shelley Elliott, prescription assistance coordinator and registered nurse with AMAP said.
In order to receive assistance from the Medical Assistance Program, patients must be uninsured residents of Ashe County, and meet certain income guidelines. Once qualified, patients can receive prescribed medication for free or for a nominal cost from the pharmaceutical companies.
AMAP has a full-time Pharmacy Technician, Diane Harless, on staff and is funded by the Duke Endowment, the North Carolina Heath and Wellness Trust Fund and Ashe Memorial Hospital. The program also relies on community donors and donations from patients.
“We serve 400 people in Ashe County and over the years we have brought in close to a million dollars a year worth of medication,” Elliott said.
AMAP is able to provide medications for chronic illnesses such as asthma, blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol to qualifying patients.
While the ACFMC and AMAP operate as separate entities, they often benefit from being in the same building. Elliot said the clinic will refer patients they believe could benefit from prescription coverage to AMAP, and AMAP refers patients to the clinic who may be in need of treatment.
“We’ll have a patient that is on a certain medicine, but their doctor can’t see them anymore because they can’t afford to pay the bill, so we’ll send them up front to the clinic,” Elliott said.
The Ashe County Free Medical Clinic is located at 225 Court Street in Jefferson and takes patients by appointment only. For information on eligibility call the clinic at (336) 846-4649 or visit acfmc.org.
Donations can be made to the clinic at P.O. Box 1506 in Jefferson, NC 28640.
Ashe Medication Assistance Program is also located at 225 Court Street in Jefferson and can be reached at (336) 846-6001 and (336) 846-6002.