For people without medical insurance — and that includes about 20 percent of Oklahomans — preventive care often is ignored. Instead, chronic conditions are left untreated until they become urgent and require emergency room visits. This is a recipe for overcrowded emergency rooms and saps resources needed for emergencies.
Many uninsured go without essentials such as eyeglasses and properly fitting dentures.
In southern Oklahoma, the Good Shepherd Community Clinic in Ardmore offers the indigent, working poor and other uninsured people a chance to manage their health in a proactive rather than reactive manner.
“We provide same-day appointments and medication either for free or for a $4 donation. Sometimes our patients don't even have that,” said Rena Tibbits, development director for the clinic.
To help pay for its services, the nonprofit clinic will host a fundraising art show and sale Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Ardmore featuring cowboy poet Baxter Black and others.
The clinic offers free medical treatment from nurse practitioners and volunteer medical doctors, dental and optometry care. Additionally, pharmacists provide prescriptions to patients who qualify for care at the clinic. The clinic serves mostly adults who are without documentation, people leaving or entering the prison system, veterans and disabled people.
“There is always going to be a need for free clinics,” Tibbits said. “There will always be people who are going to fall through the gaps.”
The clinic's primary goal is to help manage chronic disease, said Mendy Spohn, administrator of a group of Southern Oklahoma County Health Departments, counties that Good Shepherd Community Clinic serves. About 80 percent of the clinic's patients have diabetes, Spohn said, but most would have no access to the medication, treatment and education needed to successfully manage the disease without the clinic.
“If they do not sustain long-term care somewhere, you're going to see them in the hospital for renal failure and amputations,” Tibbits said.