(Crystal A. Proxmire, Ferndale 115, 9/24/2011)
It is easy to sit around with friends and complain about the problems of the world. In fact, that’s how the FernCare Free Clinic got its start nearly four years ago. The bridge from talking about the problem of access to health care for the poor, to opening the doors of a brick and mortar medical facility was built with thousands of volunteer hours and continuous financial support from individuals and businesses in the community. And it started with the determination of a few individuals who thought that instead of just talking about the problem of health care they would do something about it.
And their success has been resounding. Since Aug. 7, 2010 the volunteer staff of FernCare had been serving clients out of a temporary location at the Kulick Community Center. By the end of their first six months they had treated 151 people and reached their capacity for new patients.
Today they will see their first patients in their own offices at 459 E. 9 Mile. The official grand opening will be October 8 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house from 10am to 4pm. The public is encouraged to attend.
Their spark lit the flames of a project that would involve nearly the entire city and the help of others beyond, and lead to the creation of The Fern Care Free Clinic. The clinic will see its first patient in their new brick mortar location at 459 E. 9 Mile on Saturday, September 24, 2011.
Fern Care provides free non-emergency medical and mental health services for adults age 21-64, non-narcotic prescription medicine distribution, community resource referrals, and a possible future venue for some holistic health treatments and dental work. Appointments are necessary, with more information available at www.ferncare.org.
FernCare also provides education and other health resources free to the community. Even before opening the clinic doors, they have brought several services to people in the area. Their Let’s Talk Health lecture series educates the public about health issues such as living without health insurance, asthma, growing healthy food, yoga and more. They also provide resources on other free health clinics, and services for low income individuals.
After the initial idea was sprung, former Ferndale Mayor Bob Porter came up with the name FernCare and sent out applications for volunteers for the FernCare Board. Their first public forum was held at AJs Café in March of 2008, and their first official board meeting was held in April 2008. The board had ten people at the time.
Ann Heler took on the role of Board President and began the task of trying to figure out how to get a free clinic started. She connected with Mary Ellen Howard of the Cabrini Free Clinic, which has been serving the people of SW Detroit since 1950. This is the oldest free clinic in the US and has had 58 years to grow into the organization it is today. Heler met with Charissa Shawcross of the Joy-Southfield Clinic and learned that they grew from their affiliation with the Methodist Church. And Brian Harris of the Gary Burnstein Community Health Clinic in Pontiac told her the story of how their clinic got started through doctors in honor of Dr. Burnstein, who saw patients for free from 1997-2003 when he passed away. The clinic opened in his name the same year, thanks to generous benefactors.
Each free clinic offered inspiration and ideas, but none had begun as an independent, grass-roots project. Heler and the other volunteers decided to carry forward and figure it out as they went along. And their success, despite of the uncertainty, has come about thanks to the hundreds of people who have gotten involved so far. Over the years many have gotten involved, and the organization touches every area of the community. From businesses like Capital One, AJs Café, Modern Tax and Accounting, and Dino’s – to the individuals who have served and donated, it has been a growing grassroots effort.
Now, in the new location, the focus will be less on the week-to-week set up and tear down of the temporary clinic, and more on expanding the services offered, growing and maintaining their volunteer staff of professional medical care providers, and sustaining funding. They are also always looking for specialists who are willing to treat patients on a charity or sliding-scale basis.
The clinic is appointment only, and they are not currently accepting new patients. To find out more about FernCare, or to give a donation to the cause, go to www.ferncare.org.
For prior FernCare stories in The Ferndale 115 News, go to http://oaklandcounty115.com/?s=ferncare.