Free clinic moves downtown
by Tom Coombe
Ely’s free clinic has a new home.
After several years in the old American Fraternal Union building, the Ely Community Health Center has taken its operations downtown, to the Chapman Street facility that was the longtime office for retired dentist Scott Anderson.
The ECHC has been in its new digs and treating customers for roughly three weeks.
“We’ve moved the entire operation,” said ECHC Executive Director Helen Tome. “We needed more space and we were working on expanding our dental service, so this is pretty perfect as it used to be a dental office.”
Dental services have been a new addition to the ECHC, thanks in part to grant support from Blue Cross-Blue Shield and a collaborative agreement with local dentist Crystal Chopp, who has helped supply the free clinic with hygienist services.
For now, dental services are by appointment only but Tome said the expanded operation could allow for up to three-to-four patients per day for up to three days per week.
Meanwhile, the medical clinic component of the ECHS continues to be open one day per week, on Thursdays from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
In existence since 2015, the ECHC serves both uninsured and underinsured patients.
“By under-insured we mean people who have insurance but have very high deductibles or copays that they can’t afford,” said Tome.
The ECHC offers free, basic services, with both a nurse and doctor on staff each week.
“We can treat minor injuries and can help with chronic illness such as high blood pressure,” said Tome. “We are able to do prescriptions and programs available at low cost and sometimes no cost. We can also make referrals for more advanced service.”
The ECHC has an agreement in place with Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital for patients who need laboratory work or x-rays.
On a typical week, the ECHC serves anywhere from one-to-seven patients.
“All of the services we provide are totally free,” said Tome. “We operate under grants we received from different agencies.”
ECHC also provides health insurance “navigating” services, helping clients overcome the bureaucracy and paperwork sometimes associated with accessing health insurance plans.
Tome said clients and staff have been happy with the move.
“We’ve got a ton more space to work with,” she said. “It’s better set up for privacy and it’s not too cramped. And being centrally located has helped us. We’re more visible here on Chapman Street I think.”