“Health is wealth.” This old adage rings as true today as ever. Volunteer Healthcare Clinic, Austin’s oldest free clinic, cares for the health of Austinites who may otherwise be unable to afford medical services, prescription medications, or preventive treatment.
Program Director Silvia Nuñez and Executive Director Marcie Roe recently spoke with me about the clinic’s programs, history, and upcoming fundraiser. The fundraiser features a lineup of performers, with Black Joe Lewis headlining. This event, the first musical fundraiser for Volunteer Healthcare Clinic, will be held at The ABGB on Nov. 15, 2018, as part of Hell Yes Project.
What Volunteer Healthcare Clinic Does
Volunteers see, examine, and consult with patients three nights a week at Volunteer Healthcare Clinic. The walk-in clinic is open Tuesdays and Thursdays for regular patients, check-ups, lab work, prescriptions, and ailments such as a cold or flu. While it is called a walk-in clinic, making an appointment ahead of time is ideal.
Monday evenings at Volunteer Healthcare Clinic are reserved for patients with chronic illnesses requiring regular monitoring and treatment, such as diabetes. In addition to nurse and physician consultations, Chronic Disease Management patients receive nutrition counseling, ophthalmology consults, diabetic podiatric exams, and routine lab testing, as well as medical supplies and medications. These patients must have an appointment and must first enroll in the specialized program at the walk-in clinic.
All of these services are free to patients, though donations are welcome. Roe summarizes, “We help fellow Austinites with no other access to healthcare.” Low-income, uninsured patients are the target population. With so many people living paycheck to paycheck, and still struggling to afford insurance or healthcare, the Volunteer Healthcare Clinic can be a literal lifesaver.
Volunteer Healthcare Clinic also offers limited care in more specialized areas, like physical therapy and mental health. The organization advocates for patients and helps them find resources when treatment is beyond the scope of the clinic’s services. Wellness fairs take place a couple of times each year. During the Women’s Wellness Fair, Volunteer Healthcare Clinic provides annual exams, including mammograms.
During the summer, the nonprofit puts on a Pediatric Wellness Clinic. Before school starts, the team makes sure students are up to date on vaccinations and provides general wellness checks, or a sports physical for children wanting to join sports teams. The nonprofit also gives each young patient a donated backpack full of school supplies.
Volunteers, Service Donations, and Funding
Nuñez and Roe could not speak more highly of their volunteers and community partners. “Our volunteers are really what make VHC possible,” shared Roe. “We are cultivating a spirit of volunteerism in these young students.” Hopefully, this spirit of giving time and care to those most in need in our community will carry on throughout their careers.
“They are the heart of the clinic,” added Nuñez. Many of Austin’s top doctors, nurses, and pharmacists volunteer at the clinic. Students in various medical programs at The University of Texas also participate.
Volunteer Healthcare Clinic community partners are also integral to the success of the clinic. While more than 20 community partners and numerous medical professionals provide in-kind donations of time, and services, there are a few Sustaining Community Partners of note, such as:
- ARA (Austin Radiological Association)
- Central Health
- Project Access (through Travis County Medical Society)
- Seton Healthcare Family
- St. David’s Foundation
How Volunteer Healthcare Clinic Began
Back in the 1960s, homelessness in Austin began to grow. In 1966, the Ladies of Charity at St. Vincent de Paul from St. Theresa Catholic Church started helping the burgeoning homeless population, convincing local doctors to donate their services.
Monsignor Richard McCabe, Director of Catholic Charities, was simultaneously looking for a way to keep his recently retired father, Dr. John McCabe, busy. He built upon what the Ladies of Charity had started and began a small daytime clinic.
What started as a referral service with a few doctors and Ladies of Charity providing medical care has now grown to 500+ volunteers working more than 14,000 service hours annually. Volunteer Healthcare Clinic runs efficiently, thanks to benevolent medical professionals, community partners, and volunteers.
For more by-the-numbers information, you can read Volunteer Healthcare Clinic’s 2017 Annual Report.
Party for a Cause
What can you do to help? Start by buying your ticket for a killer show at The ABGB on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. The lineup includes Austin’s School of Rock house band, The Joe Jacksons, and Black Joe Lewis.
In addition, The ABGB is donating 100 percent of ticket sales for the event, and 10 percent of sales all day to Volunteer Healthcare Clinic. In other words, even if you can’t make the show that night, you can still contribute by eating lunch or dinner, or by drinking a delicious, gold-award-winning beer at The AGBG on Thursday.
Find out more about volunteering or donating to Volunteer Healthcare Clinic on the organization’s official website.
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