FernCare Free Clinic Opens (with video)

FernCare Free Clinic Opens

(Crystal A. Proxmire, 10/08/2011)

The FernCare Free Clinic (459 E. 9 Mile) had its ribbon cutting ceremony and open house today, after three and a half years of fundraising and planning by hundreds of volunteers, donors and supporters.

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.

The idea began when a handful of Citizens for a Fair Ferndale volunteers got together to discuss the problem of health care at the end of the group’s November 2007 meeting.  Instead of just talking about it, they made the decision to do something.

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 saw its first patients in their new brick mortar location at 459 E. 9 Mile on Saturday, September 24, 2011.  The building was essentially donated by Credit Union One, and much of the equipment, building materials and labor were donated by various givers.

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

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 https://oaklandcounty115.com/?s=ferncare.


Keith Dalton of The Dalton Group has also submitted a video of the ceremony.  It’s a little bit longer and has some inside views:

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