By Kelly Medinger
Shepherd’s Clinic uses health care grant to serve those who need it most
Since 1991, Shepherd’s Clinic has grown from a small medical clinic located in the basement of Seventh Baptist Church to an integrative health center recording, at its height, 18,000 volunteer hours and 9,440 patient visits in one year.
The Clinic serves patients whose income falls below 200% of the federal poverty index, and their catchment area includes the Waverly, Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello, Hampden and surrounding neighborhoods of Baltimore City.
A Mission Connection to Union Memorial Hospital
“The Clinic was originally founded to help the many non-urgent, uninsured patients going to Union Memorial’s emergency department,” shares Melissa DeLong, M.D., Medical Director. The connection to Union Memorial became deeper when Dr. William H.M. Finney, former Chief of Staff at Union Memorial, became the Clinic’s first volunteer Medical Director. “Dr. Finney set the tone for the Clinic, bringing an inspiring spirit of service and steadfast dedication to patient care,” DeLong remarks.
Today, Shepherd’s Clinic’s holistic approach to serving patients is a hallmark of the Clinic. Their campus includes a medical clinic, lab, as well as a full-service wellness center. The Joy Wellness Center offers psychiatric consultations, massage therapy, acupuncture, yoga classes, walking groups, and cooking lessons, among other things.
A Volunteer-Driven Clinic
Notably, all of Shepherd’s Clinic’s direct patient care services are provided by a vast and committed volunteer base. Volunteers range from the enthusiastic pre-med students from Johns Hopkins University manning the front desk, to the pharmacy students from Notre Dame of Maryland University’s School of Pharmacy, to the nurses, primary care physicians and specialists seeing patients every day.
The Knott Foundation has provided Shepherd’s Clinic with more than $180,000 since 2000, largely to support the Clinic’s general operations. During the most recent grant period, the Clinic saw record growth in patient visits – so much that the organization had to reaffirm its service area in the neighborhood to ensure continuation and quality of care as well as organizational stability.
Reform on the Horizon
Healthcare reform will mark another defining point in the Clinic’s growth and history. Many of Shepherd’s Clinic’s patients will be eligible for medical assistance under new federal guidelines, and others will be eligible for products on the healthcare exchange.
Even with these new measures in place, however, it is still expected that patients will experience gaps in coverage. Care will not be seamless, and people will still need an advocate to help them understand the system and reassure them that they will be taken care of. Shepherd’s Clinic will continue to meet the demand for free and affordable health care by adapting into a hybrid model that includes the existing free clinic for the uninsured, a new fee-based clinic, and a navigation service to help people acquire health coverage.
DeLong concludes, “While our model may shift some in the coming years, our mission to provide quality comprehensive care in the community to those who need it most will remain constant.”