The Pocatello Free Clinic has served Pocatello and the surrounding area since 1971. It is one of the longest continuously operating free clinics in the entire country, and we plan to be here for many years to come. We are now asking for your financial support. The clinic is a local non-profit that is entirely funded through generous donations. Patients have always been without any alternative access to health care, are below 200 percent of Federal Poverty level, and are not covered by insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Many are employed at minimum wage without benefits.
For more than 40 years the Clinic was housed in the old Alameda Fire Station on North Washington Street, which was rented from the City of Pocatello for $1 per year. In addition, the City generously paid for utilities. Patients were served by volunteer medical and dental providers and ISU students. The Clinic utilized a limited supply of locally donated medicines. While care was good, the volunteer model did not meet the needs of chronic patients with complex conditions, and could not serve the increasing volume of patients. The dental waiting list was often over 100 persons.
During recent years the Free Clinic has undergone a number of important changes
1. Patient numbers have increased markedly. In the first six months of 2019, 1,207 persons were seen, a 44 percent increase over the comparable period in 2018. These numbers will further increase now that the clinic has moved to its new expanded location. The Clinic also expects a corresponding increase in laboratory and pharmacy costs.
2. Rather than acute illness, most current patients have complex chronic diseases that are time-consuming and difficult to manage. They require more intensive evaluation, more medicines and more laboratory tests. They also need careful follow-up. Diabetes, hypertension, and mental illness are now the three leading conditions seen.
3. The Clinic now has a part-time RN Diabetes Educator. Dental services have expanded from extractions only to include fillings and preventive care. ISU Dental Hygiene students and the ISU Dental Program provide more help. The ISU Audiology Department gives hearing exams. A local chiropractor provides monthly evaluations and treatment.
4. The increasing number of patients and the complexity of their problems required the hiring of two experienced midlevel practitioners and additional support staff. Clinic hours have expanded to full time, including a weekly walk-in clinic. Patients no longer wait many weeks before being seen, nor do they need to be treated in the emergency room at great cost to the taxpayer.
5. After 40 years in the old Alameda Fire Station, the Clinic needed to find new quarters. The old building was ADA non-compliant and not handicap accessible. Exam rooms were very limited. The building was literally falling apart. Further repairs would have been costly, and often were not even possible. The opportunity became available to relocate adjacent to the new South East Idaho Behavioral Crisis Center. With the generous assistance of Portneuf Health Trust, we were able to design and furnish a clinic which would more fully meet the needs of our patients. We moved in April, 2019. Moving expenses for dental chairs and heavy equipment were considerable.
6. The Clinic has agreed to provide medical treatment services for patients in the Crisis Center. The City no longer needs to transport and pay for treatment at an urgent care or emergency room, which saves our taxpayers considerable expense. In addition, the Clinic provides medical care for women after discharge from the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center. The Pocatello Free Clinic provides greatly expanded invaluable, comprehensive, high quality medical and dental services to the Pocatello Community and surrounding area for persons who cannot otherwise afford care. Costly ER visits are avoided. Health improves, and in some cases lives are saved. Patients admitted to the Crisis Center can receive on-site medical care by our providers and volunteers. ISU health care and pharmacy students, trainees and family practice resident physicians rotate through the Clinic and gain valuable clinical experience. The Pocatello Free Clinic is a perfect return on investment for the people of our community. Now the PFC needs more support to keep providing health care to the needy. We need donations to provide medications and pay for laboratory tests. We also need ongoing financial support.
You can donate online using the Pocatello Free Clinic facebook page, or send your donation to 1001 N. 7the Ave North, Suite 155, Pocatello, ID, 83201. The Clinic needs your full support if we are to continue to provide quality services.
Dr. Roger Boe practiced pediatrics in Pocatello for 35 years, then became the national coordinator for the United Methodist Fellowship of Health Care Volunteers for the next 12 years. He’s currently a member of the Pocatello Free Clinic’s board of directors and resides in Pocatello.