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Of the 85 Free and Charitable Clinics in our state, 26 are located in rural counties and 76.47 percent are faith-based


Source: Offi ce of Primary Care and Rural Health Development at the Oklahoma State Department of Health Center for Health Innovation and Effectiveness


poverty level and do not have insurance. Ball says the goal is not to keep money from an income-earning venture if patients have affordable access to that care. Hope Dental Clinic strives for a two-fold mission. One, the volunteers want to help with the immediate issues. Two, they want to guide the pa- tients in understanding a different way of life—one that includes a contin- ued focus on care and prevention. NFEC, based out of Sayre, Okla., provided the center with a $500 grant to continue this mission. “These organizations not only provide monetary assistance and medical services, but more importantly, they provide hope,” Scott Copeland, NFEC general manager says. “This hope gives families the courage and faith to overcome the stumbling blocks of life. We believe in their mission and are truly grateful to have them in western Oklahoma.” The clinic is a piece of the Western Oklahoma Family Care Center,


which includes the clinic, job search and fi nancial assistance, and a thrift store. The services work together to help patients overcome challenges in their lives and enable them to become self-supporting citizens and con- tributors to their communities.


Providing a Community Safety Net These program benefi ts all Oklahomans according to Carrie Slatton-


Hodges, deputy commissioner, recovery and treatment for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. She says from almost any perspective, free health clinics are a positive. “If you are looking from a fi scally conservative viewpoint, it is much more cost effective to provide early intervention care than it is to utilize the most expensive resources at an acute need.


“From a humanistic standpoint, the increase of the quality of life of an individual is tremendous. It’s a ripple effect that enables them to take care of their children or maintain employment and overall well-being,” Slatton- Hodges says. Slatton-Hodges works to develop and oversee the mental health and substance abuse treatment provided in both Oklahoma’s state-operated and state-contracted mental health facilities, like Edwin Fair Community Mental Health Center. The center provides a wide variety of mental health services for children and adults in Garfi eld, Grant, Kay, Noble, Osage, Pawnee and Payne counties. Several of the offi ces are located within Stillwater, Okla.-based Central Rural Electric Cooperative’s (CREC) service territory. “We care about our clients,” Gary Wilburn, ex- ecutive director, says. “No one is ever denied ser- vice based on an inability to pay.” A safety net of community support is important to move a person through crisis and into support and toward recovery. CREC is a part of that sup- port by providing the mental health center a grant through the CREC Foundation.


“Central Rural Electric


Cooperative and the CREC Foundation are community driven and strive to improve the quality of life in the areas we serve,” Courtney Arnall, CREC communications specialist, says. “We are honored to have the opportunity and privilege to contribute to organizations like Edwin Fair Community Mental Health Center, so our members and the communities we serve can be empowered through their services.” With donations and other support, the Ponca City and Stillwater loca- tions have developed therapeutic gardens. Through tending to the plants, one of the center’s consumers progressed from a non-verbal state to enjoying group activities. “Our mission speaks to both our consumers and communities,” Wilburn


says. “The task for communities is to be a place of resources and information and dispel the stigma that mental health recovery is not possible.” Slatton-Hodges says the fear of seeking treatment can be more pro- nounced in a rural environment due to this stigma. “When you go to seek help, everyone knows the location, the car you drive,” Slatton-Hodges says. “You have to have more courage to step up and seek the care and treatment you need.” Mental health clinics will work to connect individuals who cannot afford care with nearby medical and other social services. According to Slatton- Hodges, this connection touches not just the people in need of services, but also the communities that choose to rally behind the cause.


Restoring Quality of Life “Ever since I have been in medicine I have had a heart for folks who could 83%


of patients nationwide come from a working household


not afford medical care,” Dr. Pat Belford, Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (NEOEC) member says. Dr. Belford practiced emergency medicine before he went into family medicine. He quickly noticed he would see the same people over and over again. Three years ago, he brought the idea of a free medical clinic to his church, the First Baptist Church of Langley, Okla. The congregation chose to name their offices Bethesda Free Clinic, a refl ection of a Biblical pool of water associated with healing. Now according to Vonnie Bible, clinic director and


Source: National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics


NEOEC member, the clinic maintains about 40 vol- unteers. There are three medical doctors, two nurse practitioners, one physician assistant and 10 nurses. “When it started, we were only going to be open one Saturday a month and that has never happened,” Bible says. “We are proud to be open almost every Saturday.” Volunteer providers rotate the Saturday duties and provide care for medical needs like blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol checks. “The volunteers will treat just about anything that comes in if we have the equipment and the


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