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Thursday, June 25, 2015

St. Thomas More Free Clinic: Where compassion and caregiving converge

MOORESVILLE, Ind.  – He had no family or friends and resided in an acquaintance’s garage, his meager monthly funds made it almost impossible for him to afford much-needed medications and other necessities.

It was a nurse coordinator’s continued outreach that helped steer him to a free clinic to receive the medications he needed – and learned to trust the clinicians who were treating him.

That’s just one of the many success stories that have occurred at St. Thomas More Free Clinic, a faith-based health-care ministry which is observing its 10th anniversary of service this month. The clinic offers free, non-emergency medical care to the poor and medically underserved in Morgan County.

Launched initially as a ministry of St. Thomas More Catholic Church in 2005, the clinic is now located at 1125 N. Indiana St. The free-standing facility has six exam rooms, a waiting room and discharge area.

Principal funding for the clinic is made possible by the Kendrick Foundation with continuing support from Franciscan St. Francis Health, Franciscan Physician Network and local social service agencies.

From the clinic’s beginnings, Franciscan St. Francis doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other volunteers have staffed the clinic, offering patients a variety of services including lab tests, X-rays, diagnosis and treatment of minor acute illnesses, diabetes education, chronic disease management, medications, dental services and consultations with a social worker if needed.

Chief among Franciscan St. Francis volunteers has been nurse Shelley Voelz, former director of the hospital’s standards compliance and patient safety. Voelz and her husband, Ted, have served as clinic co-directors since November 2005.

The clinic, which is open the first and third Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., averages about 20 patients each month. Most experience serious and often-neglected illnesses and medical conditions.   

And thanks to a recent grant from Franciscan Alliance Foundation-Central Indiana, the facility will soon add a nurse practitioner to its staff, who will see patients on rotating Wednesdays and Fridays.

“The clinic would not exist without the combined efforts of so many,” said Shelley Voelz. “We sincerely thank those who have made this program such a successful community benefit outreach over the last decade.”

For its service to the community, the clinic was presented with the 2009 Tony and Mary Hulman Health Achievement Award from the Indiana Public Health Foundation. In 2012, Cheryl Howard, RN, former clinical educator, was a recipient of the Salute to Nurses Community Outreach Award, presented by The Indianapolis Star. In large part, she was cited for her volunteer work at the clinic. She continues to serve as a clinical nurse lead at the facility.

Dawn Scott, RN, clinical services director for Franciscan St. Francis Health-Mooresville, is a secretary for the clinic’s board of directors. E. Doug Poplin, MD, a hospital occupational health specialist, serves as medical director for the clinic.

 “The free clinic is part of our hospital’s ongoing commitment to address the underserved medical needs of Morgan County residents,” said Scott. “We are proud to play a role.”

In recognition of its patients, volunteers and other supporters, St. Thomas More Free Clinic  will host a free open house and picnic at the clinic from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, June 27. 

The clinic is accepting new patient appointments by calling 317-831-1697