December 18, 2018
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Free Healthcare Clinic opening at Health Equity Alliance

Community Author: Andrea Littlefield
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Updated:

BANGOR — In response to the rising cost of healthcare, the overuse of emergency room visits and feedback from current clients at Health Equity Alliance (HEAL), a new service is being launched to provide limited free healthcare services – the HEAL Triage Clinic.

The part-time clinic aims to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits and increase enrollment in primary care while meeting basic needs for clients, particularly those who are actively using drugs.

“HEAL’s Harm Reduction program in Bangor serves more than 900 people actively using drugs throughout the greater Bangor area and beyond. For years, we have distributed sterile syringes and naloxone, provided referrals to care and other services to help address the health needs of people who use drugs,” describes Kenney Miller, Executive Director, Health Equity Alliance, “We work on the front lines of the opioid crisis, holding people’s hands, helping them make the journey towards recovery as healthy and whole as possible. We’re excited to have the Triage Clinic join the array of other critical services that HEAL provides. People who use drugs are significantly less likely to have health insurance and are often reluctant to engage with providers or too scared to disclose their drug use to their provider due to previous negative experiences with health care professionals. As such they have many acute care needs. While the clinic does not provide comprehensive primary care services, it is a first step towards addressing the many unmet health needs often experienced by this population, with the ultimate goal of connecting them firmly to a health care practice that is responsive to their needs.”

Housed within HEAL’s new Bangor offices at 304 Hancock Street, Suite 3B, the clinic is operated by staff and volunteer medical providers. HEAL offers basic healthcare focused on immediate, non-emergent needs. These services include:

·         HIV/HCV rapid tests and STD panels (CT/GC)

·         Pregnancy tests

·         Limited wound care

·         Limited foot care

·         Basic wellness and medical advice

·         Assistance with prescription assistance programs for low-cost medications

·         Guidance, medical advice, and referrals regarding health issues specific to the LGBTQ community

Additionally, HEAL also provides in-house referrals to HIV Medical Case Management, outpatient mental health counseling, LGBTQ+ support, syringe exchange and harm reduction services, and health insurance enrollment navigation through volunteer Certified Application Counselors.

The HEAL Triage Clinic is designed as a low-barrier access point to meet basic needs, and as such it will not offer ongoing, comprehensive primary care. The clinic will coordinate with local federally qualified health centers, like Penobscot Community Health Center, as well as hospital systems, to provide clients with longitudinal, comprehensive primary and dental care.

HEAL hopes that gaining access to basic healthcare at the new Bangor office can be a crucial safety net for clients in the margins, especially while MaineCare expansion lags. This clinic can provide historically underserved community members a vital link to care and a way to warmly enter the healthcare system. The HEAL Triage Clinic is also a pathway for volunteer providers to continue to continue to act compassionately for those in need and build trust between the healing community and those served through HEAL.

“Many of HEAL’s clients have become disenfranchised from the healthcare system, because of issues related to finances and health insurance, past negative experiences, or frustration navigating an increasingly complicated healthcare system” explains Cynthia Leiffer, RN, MSN, ANP-BC, Adult Nurse Practitioner, and Volunteer Medical Director for the clinic. “Health disparities and stigma continue to exist for many of HEAL’s target populations, including the LGBTQ community, people who use drugs, and people living with HIV and AIDS. HEAL hopes our free triage clinic will offer another way to help alleviate some of these inequalities and create a bridge for entry or re-entry into primary and preventive healthcare.”

The Triage Clinic welcomes volunteers. We are looking for volunteer healthcare providers. We welcome working or retired physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and experienced RNs. We also welcome donations both monetary and in-kind. For more information about the clinic, donating or volunteering, please contact Andrea Littlefield, Director of Development and Communications, at (207) 990-3626 or andrea@mainehealthequity.org.

HEAL envisions a world in which all people are valued and celebrated, and health disparities such as HIV, hepatitis C and AIDS-related deaths are nonexistent. By facilitating collaboration, education, advocacy and action, HEAL empowers marginalized communities to improve their health and well-being and affect social and cultural change.