A local group of concerned individuals recognized that our greater Fort Smith community was trying to grow, but had many challenges to overcome. Unemployment rates and local poverty levels were on the rise. In an effort to help those in need, these leaders decided to address the issue of health and wellness or more specifically access to affordable and quality medical care for area residents regardless of condition, age or ability to pay.
A free clinic night at St. Paul’s Methodist Church on Grand Avenue was held with volunteer doctors and nurses meeting the medical needs for the underserved in our community. Much to their delight and surprise, 70 people showed up for the opening night and from there the present day Good Samaritan Clinic was born. In 2003, under the direction of Dr. Kemal Kutait, a retired family practitioner, and Ramona Roberts, a veteran real estate professional, both from Fort Smith, the group organized to offer a more formal clinic setting in its current location at 615 North B Street, in partnership with St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Over the years, the Clinic has grown from a handful of patients a day to an average of nearly 500 patient visits per month. Given this growth in demand for and expansion of offered services (now dental, counseling and optical in addition to traditional medical care, education and prevention), staffing likewise grew from three full-time positions to a dedicated team of six full-time and two part-time employees, plus numerous volunteers.
With the adoption of the Affordable Care Act and the subsequent decision by the Good Samaritan Clinic Board of Directors to accept health insurance, the number of patient visits has continued to increase. Even with a strict application and screening process, the Clinic now has over 15,000 patients within its database. These are people that without assistance would become worse health-wise, potentially developing and suffering from untreated illnesses, resulting in missed work and further financial distress.
The Good Samaritan Clinic, its friends, auxiliary, supporters and volunteers believe that the health of our community is the wealth of our community. By helping to promote happy, healthy and productive individuals, we believe our service area and indeed society as a whole will benefit. As with any local, independent not-for-profit organization, it takes money to meet our mission. With growing patient loads and demand for services, the Clinic’s financial needs are pressing, but never distracting from our end goal.
Thanks to volunteer health care professionals, the Clinic continues to provide affordable on-site medical services for the uninsured and under insured, the homeless, the elderly and children in need. Now 15-years strong, we as Good Samaritans strive to meet and exceed individual patient needs by treating the whole person, which in turn helps our community to grow and prosper.