Growing Need For Free Clinics

Brenda McVay doesn't have health insurance.

"Like a lot of people, we can't afford it," McVay says.

So she relies on a free clinic in Lansing, to get the care she needs.
With unemployment above 15 percent in Michigan, she's not alone.

"Demand is in one word: overwhelming," says Dr. Barry Saltman, founder and C.E.O. of Care Free Medical and Dental Clinic in Lansing.

He's seen the need for free medical care skyrocket.

"My staff is telling me 'My gosh, people are calling,'" Saltman says. "We get 10,12,15 phone calls a day."

When Dr. Saltman's first clinic opened in Mason five and a half years ago, he saw less than a hundred patients.

Today, Care Free treats 5500 people.

"We have seen an increasing number of not just the neediest in our community, but those men and women who have families, who have jobs, who just plain can't afford health care," Saltman says.

Those uninsured people who go without treatment, end up in emergency rooms, says Mark Cook, V.P. of Governmental Affairs for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

That's why the company awarded nearly $100,000 in grants Thursday to five mid-Michigan free clinics.

"They really provide a critical part of the health care safety net," Cook explains.

One that caught Brenda McVay four years ago.

"I don't know where I would be without Care Free," she says. "I would probably have to make a choice of, seriously, eating or getting my medications."

She calls the free clinic, a Godsend.

Care Free extended its hours last week to accommodate an influx in patients. The clinic is looking for doctors and health professionals willing to volunteer their time.


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