(C. Proxmire, Ferndale 115 News, July 29, 2012)
“I grew up watching my parents have jobs just to get by. I’m thankful to do fulfilling work. Giving back is part of that.”
That’s why Ferndale resident Sarah Sudol spends one Saturday a month helping patients at the FernCare free medical clinic with their Medicaid and Medicare processing.
“It can be a tough system to navigate even if you are a trained professional,” she said. “For patients at FernCare some may be developmentally disabled, they may have literacy issues, or they may not have any experience with computers.”
Sudol said often the patients qualify for assistance but either don’t know how to get it, or have trouble figuring out how best to utilize it.
“If we can get people moved on to receiving more regular care, we can also open it up for FernCare to see more patients.”
Currently the free clinic has a nearly endless waiting list. Because they are entirely donation-funded, with no charge to the patient, they are limited in the service they can provide. They treat those without insurance or are under-insured and they don’t cover OGBYN services, minors or seniors over 65 because programs already exist to help in that type of care.
Sudol works as a Service Coordinator for Devon Square Apartments on Orchard Street, where she helps connect residents to the social services that are available, much like she does in her volunteer work for FernCare. She’s also on the Board of Trustees of the Disability Network of Oakland and Macomb County, which helps integrate those with disabilities into the community. She’s also a counselor of the Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program and a member of Michigan Association of Service Coordinators and American Association of Service Coordinators. The multiple organizations give her connections that make assisting any of her clients easier, by giving her access to more resources and a strong support system for herself and all of her clients.
Sudol, who moved to Ferndale from Clinton Township two years ago, always knew that she wanted to help people and feel good about her work. She went to Western Michigan University for pre-med, but an Alternative Spring Break in Colorado sent her on a slightly different course.
“I was in Colorado working for a homeless shelter. I did AmeriCorps in Colorado and I loved being able to help people when they needed it. When I got back and talked to one of my professors about it, they told me I should go into Social Work. I’d heard it before but after that people kept telling me the same thing, that if helping people made me happy, I should go into social work… And I couldn’t be happier.”
Ann Heler, President of the FernCare Board is ecstatic to have Sudol’s help. “The work she’s doing is just amazing. If we can get people into programs it gets them more care and more services, it means we can help more people,” Heler said.
FernCare is a grassroots free healthcare clinic that was started by people in Ferndale and surrounding communities. 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. They are currently not accepting new patients, but they are in need of volunteers and donations. The Board and everyone on staff, besides the main physician, are volunteers.
To learn more about FernCare, and how you can help, go to www.ferncare.org.
Here are just some of our previous FernCare stories: