Earlier this month, Key Free Clinic's open house began with a welcoming address by Chuck West, the clinic board’s chair who also serves as Key Peninsula Fire’s battalion chief. Clinic medical director Dr. Jessica Kennedy Schlicher also explained the clinic's goals, noting that she is one of several doctors who volunteer their services at the clinic.
Among medical personnel attending the event were Dr. William "Bill" Roes (deemed "The godfather of Key Free Clinic”), volunteer Dr. Jaime Payne, Dr. Nathan Schlicher, clinic director Carla Cameron, clinic volunteer and registered nurse Carol Schlicher and Kurt Schley, president of St. Anthony Hospital, who is also a Communities In Schools of Peninsula board member.
It all started with an emailed invitation from Jessica Schlicher to "attend a Clinic Preview/meet-and-greet at the Free Clinic. It will be a fun social time with drinks and dessert and an opportunity to learn more about the great work happening at the Clinic. Kids welcome. It will get them fed and ready for bed."
Who could resist?
In her address, Schlicher said, "The clinic is a wonderful place to work and to be a patient, and we are thankful for the leadership of Cameron, without whom it would not be possible. Everyone is welcome, it is a friendly place."
The clinic is in the process of raising funds for 2015. Its total clinic budget is $17,000, of which Jessica Schlicher said, "We already have about $5,000. We are thankful for our supporters who make it possible to keep our doors open. Major supporters include St. Anthony Hospital, Cost Less Pharmacy, Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, Key Peninsula Lions Club and many other individuals who give generously."
Harrison Medical Center provided food and soft drinks for the event.
The Key Free Clinic began Jan. 28, 2012 with a small group of doctors and nurses and founders Chuck West, Regina Puratich (ARNP), Dr. William Roes, Dave Allen, Dr. Jim Patterson, Cameron, Judd Morris, and clinic coordinator Dee Dee Kerkus.
"With the support of St. Anthony Hospital, Project Access, Chapel Hill and many other community organizations and individuals, in 2013 we treated 132 patients," Schlicher said. "We have 18 volunteer doctors, and many nurses and nursing students from Pacific Lutheran University. About half our patients are homeless. In 2014 we treated 125 patients for many common problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, breast cancer, sports physicals, etc.
Cost Less Pharmacy has served as the clinic’s partner in medication management.
Continuing need prompted an expansion to the now twice-monthly clinic, Schlicher said.
"Key Peninsula has 17,000 residents and only one family doctor,” she said.
At this time, the Key Free Clinic runs on a total budget of $12,000 per year. All physicians and nurses volunteer their time.
“It's truly heartwarming to see how many step up to care for our neighbors,” said Schilcher, who with her husband have been volunteering at the clinic since 2013.
Although the clinic is free to anyone needing non-urgent medical care, it still has to pay rent, utilities and other general costs, West said.
“Our doctors and many others donate their time to provide a quality service but it still costs about $11,000 per year to run the clinic,” he said. “(We are) currently in the process of raising funds to cover these expenses and ask the community for any help it can offer.”
A donation of $435 covers one month of rent, $150 covers insurance, and $50 helps with medications.
Looking to the future, the needs of the clinic include establishing a reserve fund for medications, improving patient educational materials, improving access to ongoing care and referrals, and building a reserve for ongoing operations.
"We are grateful to Cost Less Pharmacy and the Key Peninsula Lions Club for supporting our medication fund,” Nathan Schlicher said. "This is a dedicated fund that is only used for that purpose. We manage our resources very carefully and use generics as much as possible.
"Cost Less Pharmacy has supported the clinic over the years," he added. "Their investment in the health of our neighbors is incredibly generous. Free clinics don't survive without the generous support of the communities they serve. Doctors and nurses provide care for free, but we still have building, medicines, and supplies costs that would not be possible without your support."
Donations can be made via the Key Peninsula Community Services office, which is acting as the umbrella agency while the clinic awaits its official nonprofit designation. Contact KPCS director Penny Gazabat at 253-228-6828 or via mail at P.O. Box 279, Wauna, WA 98395.
For more information, visit http://www.keyfreeclinic.org/.