Champaign’s free health clinic reopens

By Nicola Crean

Returning clients and future patients of the Champaign County Christian Health Center can look forward to the free health clinic’s reopening on Tuesday at its new location, 507 S. 2nd St., Champaign.

The clinic was closed in early July due to a discrepancy between the services listed on its lease and the actual services provided at the clinic.

Jeff Trask, founder and administrator of the center, said the clinic added social work to what they offered about a year and a half ago, but it was not listed on the lease. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department was aware of this and other additional services. It was not considered a problem until recently.

“The new public health director said the services were not on the lease; therefore, the clinic was in violation,” Trask said.

For the past four years, the clinic has been serving uninsured members of the community in a variety of locations. The lease that was terminated was the one home in Champaign open on Tuesdays.

Carle Foundation Hospital received a grant that will fund the three-year lease for the center’s new location. Trask hopes this will continue to be their permanent home for some time after that.

The clinic serves about 2,000 patients who do not have health insurance. It is operated solely through volunteers. All physicians, nurses and social workers volunteer their time to help the community, Trask said.

“We try to take a holistic approach by combining labs and scripts with the presence of social workers,” he said. “Spiritual care is also offered during the visit, but can be refused.”

Basic health care is not the only thing provided. Although it may not be offered every week, the center has dental care, mental health and massage therapy as often as possible.

Trask said the clinic is working closely with Provena Covenant Medical Center to make sure a dentist is available every Tuesday, the only day the center is open.

“We put a lot of energy in to the hospitality patients get during their visit to the clinic,” Trask said.

Regular patients of the clinic usually have a chronic illness or need prescriptions refilled.

Karen Dee, a volunteer nurse at the center, said she was not sure what to expect about the clinic or the people it served.

“There is no particular demographic of the patients,” Dee said. “Some people are struggling to keep a roof over their head, while other patients have a job that just doesn’t offer health care.”

Many people, unaware that this clinic exists, will go to the hospital’s emergency room to get antibiotics when they are sick because they have no primary doctor, Dee said. Instead, patients can go to the clinic and get medicine without having to pay a fee.

Dee said the clinic is always looking for volunteers even if they do not have a background in the health profession.

“It was a great way for me to get involved and serve my community,” Dee said. “Although I am able to use my nursing background, other volunteers pray with the patients and can even help with directing them on where to go.”

Since the clinic has been closed, some patients have gone to the Urbana location in Orchard Downs on Thursday nights. When the Champaign clinic opens, only returning patients who may not have had medical care in months can make appointments, Trask said. They will be taking new patients, which they hope will be by early November.

Trask said the new location is the most spacious one they’ve had. He hopes to expand the clinic’s hours once they have caught up with their patients and the volunteer help continues.

“Thank you to the community for their support and standing by us through everything especially Carle, Provena and United Way,” he said.