Community Clinic to break away from United Way

By J. Anfenson-Comeau

jamieenews@bellsouth.net

The United Community Healthcare Clinic will soon be divested from the St. Landry-Evangeline United Way, in order to help the struggling non-profit clinic obtain more grant money.

Cathy Duplechin, Executive Director for the St. Landry-Evangeline United Way, said that the move will help the clinic obtain more grant money and continue to service its growing patient base.

Duplechin expects the clinic to receive its own 501(c)3 nonprofit status around February 2009.

The United Way will continue to allocate funds towards the clinic.

The clinic provides medical care to the working uninsured and their families who meet its income guidelines.

The clinic also dispenses medications through the Patient Assistance Program.

Over 20 percent of Louisiana residents lack health insurance, according to the “America’s Health Rankings 2008” report.

Disaster relief grants in the wake of Hurricane Katrina helped buoy the clinic as it worked to serve the needs of area residents and evacuees, allowing the clinic to move to its current location on Moosa Street and expand its facilities.

Many of those grants have since dried up, and with the current struggling economy, the clinic is finding it difficult to keep up with operational costs.

In 2007, The United Way allocated $44,336 towards the clinic’s $129,629 operating costs, with the remaining two-thirds being provided through grants and donations.

“People think the United Way funds the whole thing,” Duplechin said. “We need to let them know that this is the only amount we can give (to the clinic).”

Duplechin said that, being a program of the United Way, the clinic does not qualify for a number of grants.

Having its own 501(c)3 status, Duplechin said, would allow the clinic to qualify for grants from programs that already give to the United Way and would streamline the grant writing process by more easily distinguishing the clinic’s mission.

Four doctors and two nurse practitioners volunteer on Tuesday’s clinic nights, and eight local pharmacists volunteer to dispense free medications provided by pharmaceutical companies.

On Tuesday nights, the clinic sees approximately 20 to 25 patients, almost double the number treated three years ago.

An optometrist volunteers at the clinic the first Tuesday of every month.

The clinic has approximately 3,000 patients registered through its PAP program.

In addition, discounted lab work is available at the clinic through Lady of Lourdes Hospital on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Clinic costs are primarily operational; supplies and maintenance for the building as well as salaries for the four paid staff members.

“The clinic is suffering from success. Our staff is overworked,” Duplechin said. “We’re very proud of not turning qualifying people away, but that may change if we don’t have the funds.”

Yancy Fontenot, clinic director, said that the clinic added approximately 120 patients in the past two months.

“We’ve received some donations from our patients,” Fontenot said, adding that the staff was touched by this heartwarming gift. “But it’s hard to ask them for help, they have so little to give as it is.”

Fontenot said that she hopes the clinic can continue to get by on donations from the community.

Duplechin said that the clinic is also a benefit to local hospitals, by taking patients who might otherwise end up in the emergency room for non-emergency conditions, because they have nowhere else to go.

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