Security Health Plan: Invests in St. Vincent de Paul free clinic in Merrill

CONTACT: Rebecca Normington, 715-221-9726, [email protected]

MARSHFIELD – “This keeps people out of the emergency room and is an excellent entrance to health care for those who may qualify for referral to Marshfield Clinic services but are not aware of affordable options,” Marshfield Clinic Health System Family Medicine physician Dr. Kathy Krohn-Gill said about the Free Clinic at St. Vincent de Paul, Merrill.

Security Health Plan of Wisconsin, Inc., will invest $1,000 in St. Vincent de Paul Free Clinic as part of its Employee-Driven Corporate Giving grant program. Each month Security Health Plan awards a different charity or organization that is nominated by a Marshfield Clinic Health System employee, a $1,000 grant. Employees are encouraged to nominate organizations making a positive difference in the community. The St. Vincent de Paul Free Clinic provides basic health care services for people in Lincoln County who lack sufficient financial resources to access health care, and was nominated for the grant by Krohn-Gill.

Krohn-Gill said St. Vincent de Paul Free Clinic, located above the St. Vincent de Paul store in downtown Merrill on Main Street, offers primary care, including some lab and X-ray services. She said the Clinic provides services to vulnerable adults who have fallen through the cracks and need medical care. She said it also provides volunteer opportunities for physicians, medical students, residents, physician assistant students, nursing students, nurses, pharmacists and other community members.

Krohn-Gill said patients that have unaffordable health insurance deductibles, co-pays or no insurance are seen for free at the Clinic and medications are dispensed for a small fee.

She said the $1,000 investment from Security Health Plan will be used to obtain more affordable insulin for the clinic’s most comment patients: those with Type 2 diabetes.

“We receive some donated insulins and educational materials from drug companies, but availability varies causing patients to have to change treatment regimens based not on medical direction, but on the availability of insulin samples,” she said. While Krohn-Gill is grateful for the samples, when the samples run out patients often must switch brands, and that can be detrimental to the patient. She said some of the donated insulin samples cost as much as $300. Which she said is unaffordable for the patients she sees at the Clinic after they go back on an insurance plan with a high deductible.

“With support from this grant basic affordable insulins could be stocked, as well as testing equipment, syringes and needles. This would allow patients to continue to treat their Type 2 diabetes in a more consistent and sustainable way.

“I’d like to get more affordable insulin for people, we can get more generic insulins for a much lower cost and people can buy them without a prescription,” she said. “If I put a patient on something they absolutely cannot afford in the future I haven’t done them any justice. I want to reduce barriers in their health care.”

The physician explained diabetes is a self-managed condition that is a risk factor for heart disease, vision loss and kidney failure. She said poorly managed diabetes is directly related to increased hospitalizations.

“It is a difficult disease. It is patient-managed. It is a hassle,” Krohn-Gill said. “But if I can reduce one hassle in their life I can help them stay in control of their health. If they are in control of their diabetes, they are less likely to face other health issues that can put them in the hospital. I am working to keep people functioning and at home with their families and working.”

Krohn-Gill has been involved with St. Vincent de Paul Free Clinic for over a decade. She is one of the many physician volunteers that sees patients at the Clinic, and she has served on the board at the clinic for the past 12 years.

She said her work at the Clinic is very rewarding.

“When I get there it is like I am just energized!” she said. “I am helping make things smoother for these people. It is so direct. It is wonderful to say. ‘Yes, I can do this. I can make this happen for you.’ I get to say yes to people a lot, and that’s a good feeling.”

To qualify for services at the Clinic, Krohn-Gill said patients must meet certain income guidelines. She said patients with health insurance can obtain services if they have a high deductible and meet those guidelines.

“We see a lot of people that are between insurance,” she said. “We see people who have recently had a change in jobs and went from being insured to uninsured, people that just came off their parents’ insurance or people that left an abusive spouse. People can experience a lot of life-changing events and we don’t want them to slip through the cracks.”

Some of the most common conditions treated at the Free Clinic, besides Type 2 diabetes, are mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, as well as hypertension, high cholesterol, COPD and asthma, Krohn-Gill said.

“We’re not doing preventive care there,” she said. “It is all about trying to prevent gaps. Especially with diabetics: gaps are horrible … gaps put people in the hospital.”

St. Vincent de Paul Free Clinic is completely funded by donations. Krohn-Gill said they receive donations in all monetary amounts from private citizens, businesses and grants like this one. She said they will also receive donations from local civic organizations that hold fundraisers on their behalf. She said every little donation adds up to help them keep the clinic going.

As a non-profit organization, St. Vincent de Paul Free Clinic is always looking for volunteers and donations. To get involved or make a donation, call 715-539-9566.