(Forsyth County, GA) Forsyth County residents without health insurance will soon have more options for healthcare.
The Forsyth Community Clinic will be providing free, non-emergent healthcare to qualified low-income residents ages 18 to 65 years old. Those age 65 and up with no Medicare coverage are also eligible.
Executive Director Evan Shoemake said plans for the clinic began in 2018 when a group from Leadership Forsyth noticed the gap in resources for those who can’t afford health insurance in the county. While the overall community is very affluent, he said there are currently about 26,000 uninsured residents in the area.
“The need is there and what we run into is that its sort of invisible,” Shoemake said. “If you don’t see it then you just don’t see it. Forsyth County is a very affluent community and the perception is that we don’t have any of this need, but we do.”
Along with providing basic care for the uninsured, Shoemake said the clinic will also be helping local emergency rooms by lowering the number of ER patients. Since providing care at the ER is mandatory, many people without health insurance utilize it for medical care that is not an emergency.
“Our goal was to just really be that bridge for people who don't have health insurance that don't need to go to the emergency room,” Shoemake said. “Uninsured patients take up a lot of resources from our hospitals and if we can provide them an outlet, then the emergency rooms can actually focus on emergencies.”
Patients must be 200 percent or below the federal poverty line to qualify for care at the free clinic. Medicaid is accepted with certain restrictions. However, Shoemake said they won’t be focusing too much on these requirements in the beginning, they just want to “get in and start helping people.”
Forsyth Community Clinic
The Forsyth Community Clinic will offer the following services:
- Basic diagnosis/treatment for hypertension
- Basic diagnosis/treatment for diabetes
- Basic diagnosis/treatment for cholesterol
- Eyes, ears and nose exams
- Heart and lung exams
- Body mass index screening
- Patient health questionnaire (PHQ-9) depression screening
- Access to a network of free referrals for additional medical, dental, and behavioral health services
- Case management and follow-up services
- Patient education for health conditions
- Health and wellness classes at the clinic and non-clinic community settings
Shoemake said they are already working on expanding the services.
“We will eventually bring in dental,” Shoemake said. “We're actually partnering now with the Lions Club to start offering some vision services, and there's a hearing aid program through one of our organizations.”
Funding for the clinic comes from donations, private donors and grants, including a grant from the Georgia Baptist Foundation. The clinic is operating at The Place of Forsyth County while searching for its own building. It is staffed almost entirely by volunteers.
The Forsyth Community Clinic will only be open for a few Saturday mornings through the new year but plans to open every Saturday morning in 2023. Shoemake said the long-term goal is to be open five days a week, but that goal is largely dependent on volunteers.
How to Help
The clinic would not be able to operate without a “solid roster of volunteers” and donations.
“We would love to be open the whole time,” Shoemake said. “There are a lot of clinics in the state of Georgia that, they’re open five days a week but they may only see patients a few of those days a week. We want to at least be open every Saturday, we have to build up our roster of volunteers to make that happen…so we’re building up our volunteer base and once we have that we’ll be able to be open more frequently.”
Volunteers with both medical and non-medical backgrounds are needed. Right now, the clinic’s website lists several needed volunteer positions including physicians, volunteer coordinators, medical scribes, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and a fundraising coordinator.
Shoemake said he already has several high school students from the area interested in being a part of the clinic. As with any non-profit, monetary donations are also always needed.
“My philosophy is we’re called Forsyth Community Clinic, we want to be supported by the community,” Shoemake said. “Not just financially but philosophically. We want people to understand that there is the need and that it is valuable.”
Clinic schedule through December
The Forsyth Community Clinic will be open the following days and times through the end of 2022:
- Saturday, October 29 from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m.
- Saturday, November 12 from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m.
- Saturday, December 3 from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m.
- Saturday, December 17 from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m.
The clinic is located at The Place of Forsyth County at 2550 The Place Circle in Cumming.
If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact Justine Lookenott at firstname.lastname@example.org.