Hope Clinic's impact will be missed

James Phillips
Posted 3/12/17

“The Hope Clinic is a godsend.”

Irene Brown, a Hope Clinic patient quoted by the Daily Mountain Eagle in 2010

Hope Clinic has been an asset to Walker County for more than a decade, saving countless lives during that time. The free health …

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Hope Clinic's impact will be missed

Posted

“The Hope Clinic is a godsend.”

<*R> Irene Brown, a Hope Clinic patient quoted by the Daily Mountain Eagle in 2010

Hope Clinic has been an asset to Walker County for more than a decade, saving countless lives during that time. The free health clinic will close its doors for good on Wednesday.

When I received word recently of the closure of the clinic, it felt like the death of an old friend. Since 2006, I have felt strongly about the need of the clinic in our community. I have written more than 30 articles about the clinic, and I have served Hope Clinic’s board of directors on two different occasions.

Hope Clinic has had nearly 10,000 patient visits, provided nearly $18 million in prescriptions and performed almost $1 million worth of lab tests since its opening in January 2006. Medical professionals have donated more than 22,000 hours at Hope Clinic during those 11 years. Even more hours have been donated by community volunteers during that same time period.

I have been in the clinic when patients were visiting. I have seen the interactions between patients and doctors. I have also taken the time to listen to so many stories from local residents who have had their lives impacted by Hope Clinic and the people who made the clinic possible.

Despite the closure, Hope Clinic leaves a lasting legacy on Walker County and its people. I’m one of those people. I’ve had family members who sought health care relief through the free clinic.

What’s the reason for the closure? It all boils down to funding. It takes approximately $100,000 per year to operate the clinic, and that is a very lean budget. While the Hope Clinic has struggled throughout its existence to maintain funding, that struggle has increased in recent years. Aftershocks from the Affordable Care Act, as well as financial hardships on Walker County residents, have been major factors in the fall in funding for the clinic.

As donations in recent years fell, Hope Clinic continued to forge through, attempting a variety of fundraisers. Casino Night, which was a fundraiser started in 2012, had become one of the most popular social events in Jasper, drawing hundreds of people each year. When hearing the clinic was closing, I immediately thought of the impact it will have on the uninsured in our area, but I have to be honest that my mind later thought about the trivial loss of that event, because it was so much fun.

During my time on the Hope Clinic Board of Directors, I worked with some amazing people who have become great friends. All of us tried our best to devote much time and effort to the mission of Hope Clinic. When I think about Hope Clinic, my mind points back to one person who I felt worked harder than anyone else to help the clinic be a success, and that person is former Jasper Mayor Don Goetz. His passion for Hope Clinic was contagious. Goetz worked tremendously hard on raising funds as well as awareness for the clinic. He has not served on the board in recent years, but his hard work is not forgotten.

Tim Hodge, director of Hope Clinic, summed up the effort put forth by the board of directors and volunteers associated with the clinic with one quote earlier this week while he was being interviewed by the Daily Mountain Eagle.

“If this were a gunfight, we’d be behind the pickle barrel with our gun out of bullets and our holster empty. We even took our boots off and threw at it,” Hodge said.

James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.