Winchester, Virginia (October 13, 2016) — The Free Medical Clinic of Northern Shenandoah Valley (FMCNSV) this month celebrates 30 years of serving the community in the City of Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties since opening its doors on October 23, 1986, in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church in Winchester.
“Since its inception, the Free Medical Clinic has been a wonderful community project,” said founder Terry Sinclair, M.D. “Back when we started, we saw one patient on the first night in the First Presbyterian basement, and today with the continued generous support of our donors, volunteers and hardworking staff, we are able to keep the doors open for this much-needed community resource.”
The clinic originally operated with a staff of volunteers, with physicians seeing patients for no charge at the clinic or at their private practices. By 2004, the clinic had hired its first pharmacist, and in 2006, it hired a paid nurse practitioner. The clinic is now staffed by 23 paid employees, including two full-time nurse practitioners and one full-time psychiatric nurse practitioner.
“From expanding our primary care and behavioral health services, to adding bilingual staff, to now offering extended opening hours during the week, the clinic now serves more clients than ever before,” said Executive Director Stefan Lawson.
Today, the clinic stands as one of the area’s bedrock institutions, and one of its most worthy achievements. Much of this success can be attributed to continued volunteer involvement and strategic partnerships within institutions that support and align with the FMCNSV’s mission.
One of the clinic’s longest and strongest partnerships is with Valley Health System. According to Lawson, Valley Health provides $300,000 each year to support on-site clinical staff, including nurse practitioners, pharmacist and technicians, nurse, medical assistant and clinic operations manager. Valley Health also performs all lab and diagnostic work at no cost to the FMCNSV patients and partners on grants to increase access to care. Looking forward, integrated services will expand to improve the transition of care between Winchester Medical Center and the FMCNSV.
“From its humble beginnings in a church basement, the Free Medical Clinic of Northern Shenandoah Valley has become a vital, trusted health resource for thousands of people,” said Valley Health System President and CEO Mark H. Merrill. “We are proud to have been a part of the Free Medical Clinic’s success from day one, and we will continue to support the clinic and pursue greater collaboration to improve access to health care for our community and its residents.”
This year, the clinic has seen a 21 percent increase in the number of patients it serves, with more than 1,400 patients served to date. It stands as one of only a handful of free clinics across the Commonwealth that are seeing an increase in patients. According to Kathy Tagnesi, chair of the FMCNSV Board of Trustees, the clinic has grown considerably in its ability to identify and reach out to those in need.
“While we celebrate an amazing accomplishment in serving the Winchester community over 30 years, the sobering reality is that for the poor and uninsured in our community, not much has changed,” said Tagnesi. “The FMCNSV, with the support of the local community will continue to be needed to serve those less fortunate than ourselves for the foreseeable future.”
After an exceptional 30 years of service, the FMCNSV is now in the early stages of reconfiguring itself to be an evermore effective force for good in the region. At the core of its strategy is the implementation of a broad, multi-disciplinary approach to patients known as community-based health care.
“This approach is fast-growing around the country, because it is good for patients and for effective use of health-care dollars,” said Lawson. “The most effective way to prevent and treat health problems is to take an approach that involves much more than a trip to a hospital or doctor. It requires coordination of care among people in a variety of health care disciplines.”
The Free Medical Clinic provides community-based health care to uninsured residents that are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level in Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties. Services include primary care, behavioral health, women’s health, occupational health, physical therapy, orthopedics and a retail pharmacy. The clinic receives limited federal and state funding, and it relies heavily on the generosity of local individuals and businesses to raise the $1.6 million it needs to keep its operation going. To learn more, go to www.fmcwinchester.org.