About three months ago I spoke with Christine Knight, volunteer and outreach coordinator, about Hope Community Health Center opening in Champaign. In those short and hectic three months Hope has attracted over 200 patients from the Champaign-Urbana area. Though it is tremendously exciting that Hope has attracted so many people, it is also a sad testament to how badly accessible health care is needed in the area. There are limited resources in the community for those without insurance or very limited coverage, and Hope is striving to fill this void.
Though Hope has made a great deal of progress in the last couple of months, there is much work to be done. The clinic is currently providing basic care for its patients, offering things like prescriptions for the flu and other upper-respiratory problems, physicals, general ailments; essentially they are acting as a general primary care resource for the community. Hope has equipment for gynecological exams and making casts, but space is a very limiting factor. Located in the dental circle building near Second and Springfield, Hope occupies a small office space, which makes it difficult to use unwieldy equipment. I asked Knight if Hope planned on offering prenatal care, since Planned Parenthood will no longer be able to, but she said it’s hard to tell at the moment. She did say however, that Dr. Medrano — the clinic’s founder and CEO — has hopes of offering women’s healthcare.
Knight has most recently been working on a great deal of outreach in the community, and has just organized a silent auction for the clinic. I attended the event, and even successfully bid on a couple pieces. At the end of the day the clinic raised about $2,000 — a pretty good sum for a day’s work.
“Hope is always in need of money, that’s the struggle of being a free clinic. So fundraising is really important, but what we really need is long-term funding to sustain the clinic,” said Knight.
On top of long-term funding, Hope is in great need of general community support, especially from other health care providers in the area. Currently one doctor, one nurse practitioner, one nurse in training, a psychiatrist, and an MD/PhD student staff the clinic. Being a free clinic, everyone works at Hope on a volunteer basis, and in order to provide its patients with professional care Hope will need more doctors in the future. That is one the most important contributions that Hope has made to the community: they offer professional and stable healthcare to people who otherwise would not be able to afford it.
Generally, most of the people who come to the clinic are those without stable healthcare or those between jobs. It gives many people who have bounced around from one health center to another the opportunity to have a doctor. The clinic also offers healthcare to those who would otherwise ignore ailments and illnesses because of a lack of insurance.
Christine told a poignant story of an older man who is now a regular patient at Hope. He was so ecstatic to finally have his own doctor after so many years of bouncing around. It gave him a sense of pride to say that he as his own doctor. Hearing that story truly puts things into perspective, and further proves how great it is to have something like Hope in the community.
“It’s great to see patients coming back. People feel that they are finally getting the professional care they need. There is still a lot of work to be done, but things are definitely coming together,” Knight told me.
Beyond providing professional medical care, Hope is a much needed community center that offers stable support.