Dr. Kevin Taylor is one of Grace Clinic’s most faithful volunteers.
He started years ago, when the free clinic for uninsured people in the Tri-Cities first got off the ground.
And he’s been working shifts ever since. For him, it’s a way to actively live out his faith.
And he encourages other medical professionals to consider lending their skills in the same way.
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Grace Clinic could use more volunteer providers, especially to work on Fridays. That need tops its holiday wish list.
Taylor has participated in overseas mission work, and he sees Grace Clinic as “a local mission here, in our backyard, for people who are needy and have no access to health care.”
The clinic on West Canal Drive in Kennewick provides medical care and related services, including urgent dental work and mental health counseling. It’s the community’s only free clinic for the uninsured, with a mission to “ensure healthy families and to share Christ’s love through practical acts of compassion” by providing health care.
Along with volunteer providers, Grace Clinic also could use financial donations. It’s seen a dip in contributions, perhaps tied to a perception that federal health care reform has erased the need for the clinic.
In reality, while the uninsured population in Benton and Franklin counties has dropped an estimated 30 percent, about 34,000 people locally still don’t have coverage, said Mark Brault, clinic president.
For many, purchasing insurance remains too costly, even with tax credits through the new state-based exchange, he said.
Brault said many of Grace Clinic’s patients are dealing with chronic diseases, such as diabetes.
“We ask our patients, ‘Where would you go if the clinic wasn’t here?’” Brault said. “The last two or three years, 56 to 58 percent tell us they wouldn’t go anywhere, they wouldn’t seek care. The next largest group said they would go to the ER,” the wrong place for chronic disease management.
“The need (for the clinic) is still very significant, and it isn’t going to go away any time in the foreseeable future,” Brault said.
The clinic currently has about nine dentists and 14 medical providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
Volunteers are asked to make a minimum commitment of one four-hour shift a month.
Taylor, a Lourdes Health Network physician, noted that there’s flexibility, saying he has the freedom each month to choose the day that works best for his schedule.
“It’s a really good experience. (Other providers) I’ve talked to say it’s good experience,” he said. “It really provides a sense of serving, of giving back to the community.”
To fill out a volunteer application or make a donation to Grace Clinic, go to www.gracecliniconline.org.
For more information, call 509-735-2300.