Ten years into its mission to provide free medical services to those who otherwise can’t afford them, Grace Clinic of the Yadkin Valley has a new home where its staff can serve the public.
A small sign sits outside the doors on the western side of the two-story building which also houses the Northern Medical Group – Pain Management, formerly Revival Pain Clinic, located behind Goodwill of Elkin on CC Camp Road. As patients enter the doors, they pass through the pain clinic’s lobby and will take an elevator to the second floor of the building, which opens into the lobby for Grace Clinic’s new home.
The space is being provided to Grace Clinic on a five-year no-cost lease from building owner, Dr. Emidio Novembre, according to Hugh Quinn, director of Grace Clinic.
The generous offer came out of the blue back in late May as Quinn was at work and got a visit from Novembre. “We talked about 45 minutes. The first 30 minutes was about his faith and how he thought of us,” said Quinn. “He offered us this space. He said he thought who might benefit from this and he thought of us.
“It was an act of God.”
Quinn said when he took Novembre’s offer to the Grace Board of Directors, Chairman Steve Newman’s response was “are you sure that’s right?”
“It was almost an offer too good to be true,” Quinn said. “It was a blessing to us and [Novembre] feels this is a blessing to him as well. What impressed me was his faith and what he was trying to accomplish.”
The clinic had been in a former house, which had been renovated into a clinic, on Claremont Drive which was being leased from Bill and Jane Wells. “Our board of directors wanted ways to reduce operating costs, and that was one of the messages they gave me in March when I started in this role,” said Quinn. “They had been talking about a conjoining space with Tri-County Christian Crisis Ministry, but finding a suitable location was not materializing.”
Following the relaying of Novembre’s offer to Newman and the board, Quinn said the board members met and toured the facility.
“We signed a lease in July after the board approved the relocation in June,” he said. The lease took effect Aug. 1. “It is a very modern space. It was built in 2000. Lifeline Pregnancy Center operated here for a few years.”
Lifeline moved to a more private location in April 2014 off Johnson Ridge Road, also owned by Novembre, in order to help its clients who may be uncomfortable with the prior arrangement of having to walk through the first level lobby to get to the center upstairs, Quinn said.
The decision to make the formal move last week was based on the fact that Mary Keller, the clinic’s physician assistant, already was scheduled to be out of town for a conference, so very few appointments would have to be rescheduled. The move came late Aug. 19, with volunteers and staff helping pack things up at the former location and unload them at the new location.
“We don’t have as much storage space here, so we have a unit at Eagle Storage, and they allowed us to borrow their nice truck twice to use,” Quinn said. “We had a lot of volunteers help out, including John Freas, Bill Devlin and Steve Newman. And Steve, through his church, was able to arrange several members to help with the move.”
Volunteers and staff were on site Thursday and Friday to help get everything organized so the clinic could open for patients Monday. “It has been a real team effort to make it all happen,” said Quinn. “The exam tables are very heavy, and we only had that small elevator to bring it all up.”
Others assisting in getting everything set up and moved have been Jane Casstevens, the volunteer coordinator who has been setting up the front desk space, and Joann Collins and Mae Werner.
It may be a week or two until everything is completely settled in, but Quinn already is pleased with the new space for the clinic as is his staff.
“I think it’s great,” said Keller between patient visits Monday afternoon. “I think most important is the free rent, so we have more funding to provide patient care. [The space] works better as a clinic, because it is set up for that instead of a house.”
Keller serves as PA and primary care provider, with Dr. Steve Erlandson being the volunteer overseeing physician for Grace Clinic.
With its affiliation with Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, Quinn said the board did talk to the hospital officials to make sure they were OK with the move, since it is a facility operated by the Northern Hospital of Surry County medical group. “They said we couldn’t turn down an offer like that and to go for it,” said Quinn.
“We were in the other facility for seven years, and it was a good facility,” he said. “That building did get renovated to serve as a clinic. But this is a new opportunity for Grace Clinic to expand and we are accepting new patients.”
Grace Clinic sees patients who are ages 18 to 64 with no medical insurance and who fall under the income at or less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For an individual, that is about $23,000, and for a family of four, that is $48,000.
The process includes an eligibility screening prior to setting up a first patient appointment.
A feature of the clinic which has been offered for about a year is through its partnership with CareNet Counseling. It focuses on providing behavioral healthcare counseling with patients.
“By that collaboration we are seeing improvements in their numbers and through their health. It isn’t just about the medicine,” said Quinn.
“It is based off an integrated care model,” said Will Eads, who serves as counselor at Grace Clinic through the CareNet partnership. “It is a holistic approach of caring for patients — their medical and physiological and emotional needs are met.
“It is the belief that you can’t separate out a person. Part of the process is about identifying what is sacred to them. A lot can be captured in their belief systems, and it’s about tying that into their care here as well,” Eads said.
The CareNet counselor sees everyone who comes in to Grace Clinic. They are given a survey to screen things like depression and stress.
“We don’t have to refer them to somewhere they’re not going to go. They get it here for free,” Eads said of the counseling. “It is just another level of care for them.”
“By talking to Will, we can minimize destructive behaviours to themselves or others,” said Quinn. “It allows them to talk to a third party about something they may not want to talk to a family member about.”
Grace Clinic is part of the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics. Patients are seen on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and two Tuesday nights a month for those patients who are unable to make daytime appointments.
Casstevens, the clinic’s volunteer coordinator, also said the clinic is in need of more volunteers in the eligibility and reception areas. She can be reached at the clinic on appointment days.
Grace Clinic can be reached at 336-835-1467.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.