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In the examining room, clinical manager Mike Barrow greets then weighs a patient, takes the patient’s temperature and blood pressure and scribbles down the results. Barrow reviews the patient’s medications to determine if they are still current and begins a dialogue about overall health.
Barrow asks if the patient has developed any new chronic problems.
“Yeah, the cost of everything is going up,” the patient replies, grinning.
“Any problems I can do something about?” Barrow says after smiling at the patient’s joke.
The patient responds in the negative.
Humor, Barrow said, often is used by patients to shield their real feelings.
After a few questions, Barrow escorts the patient down a narrow hall to one of the rooms where a doctor awaits. Striding back down the hall, voices in the lobby ebb and flow as patients move about the room to talk to one another.
Patients have chronic illnesses and little means to pay for medical care. They wait in a brick building that from the outside looks like a simple ranch home.
In reality, the building houses Community Health Clinic of Hardin and LaRue Counties, a beacon of light for them.
“If it wasn’t for them I might be dead by now,” said Evelyn Jones of Radcliff.
Jones lost her job after the company she worked for went bankrupt. She couldn’t find a full-time job and had to work part time. She is scheduled to work as few as two hours a day.
“I’m working right now and still can’t get (medical) insurance,” Jones said.
The Radcliff resident knew she needed medical help.
“I’ve had high blood pressure all my life,” she said.
Additionally, Jones has high cholesterol.
About three years ago, she started going to the Community Health Clinic of Hardin and LaRue Counties.
“When I first started, my blood pressure was so high I had to go every month,” Jones said. These days she needs to go only once every three months.
Getting only about 20 hours of work a week and qualifying for $16 a month in food stamps, Jones said the need exists for places such as the clinic. She doesn’t understand how families in similar situations can make it.
“It’s hard for me to make it — a single person — much less a person with children,” she said.
In fact, Jones sees a great need in the community for such a clinic, despite what some might think.
“They don’t think we need it, but we do need it,” she said.
Thomas Davis of Elizabethtown said the Community Health Clinic of Hardin and LaRue Counties has helped him get medical attention he needs for chronic health issues.
“If it wasn’t for them I don’t know where I’d be right now,” Davis said.
Davis has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver and cancer of the liver. A 2009 accident resulted in a head injury and the loss of his spleen and required him to have plates put in his shoulder.
For the past three years, Davis and his wife have been living off her disability income. They have no health insurance.
The clinic is the only resource for medical care for many, Davis said.
“The lower income and poverty-stricken are using the place because they have nowhere else to go,” he said.
The clinic became a reality in 2002 and provides medical, dental, pharmaceutical and diagnostic services. Physicians, physician’s assistants, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists and pharmacists are among the volunteers who donate their services.
To qualify for services, a patient must be a Hardin or LaRue county resident, meet income guidelines, have been diagnosed with a chronic condition and be employed or have been employed in the past year. Patrons of the clinic must have an annual household income at or below 185 percent of the 2005 federal poverty guideline.
For a household of four that comes to $37,000. For a single resident household it’s $18,130.
“A lot of people who come here, this is their last resort,” said Jane Cornell, executive director.
Those served by the clinic might be college students with part-time jobs or heads of households unable to make enough to afford medical insurance and support the family. The stereotypes of the low-income and poverty stricken don’t apply, Cornell said.
“You can’t assume these are certain types of people,” she said.
While a need for the clinic exists, many in the community might not know the clinic exists and might not think about the segment of the population living in poverty, Barrow said.
“I think a lot of people don’t think about it until it becomes personal,” he said.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or email@example.com.