Monday Matters: Good Samaritan Clinic provides medical services to needy
By Thomas Saccente / Times Record / email@example.com
A nonprofit organization in Fort Smith has a long history of providing medical services for those in need.
Patti Kimbrough, executive director of the Good Samaritan Clinic at 615 N. B St. in Fort Smith, said the clinic was started more than 15 years ago by a group of concerned residents, and it fills a gap for people in the community who do not have health insurance. It provides basic medical care, limited dental care and vision care, as well as counseling services and education.
“And a lot of times, I like to tell people it’s for the uninsured or the under-insured, but definitely for those in our community that are underserved,” Kimbrough said. “But with the passing of Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act, it did change our business just a little bit ... it allowed us to still see people that had 6 to $10,000 deductibles because, in essence, they really don’t have health care. They have catastrophic care is what I like to call it. I mean, it’s meant for catastrophic illness or long-term illness.”
Kimbrough said chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and hypertension, are two of the main things the Good Samaritan Clinic treats. More than 70 percent of its patient base suffers from one of these illnesses, or sometimes even both. They need continuity of care, and that is the one thing the Good Samaritan Clinic gives them.
“It also, in essence, saves our two medical systems an enormous amount of money in indigent care write-off because no one here ever pays more than $35 for a visit,” Kimbrough said. “It could be $10, it could be $20 based on a sliding scale of their income and ... the number of people in their household, so it’s an amazing organization.”
In addition to not having insurance, Kimbrough said a person must also meet a household income threshold and the number of people in their household to partake in the services the Good Samaritan Clinic provides. If they do have insurance, their deductible has to be between $6,000 and $10,000. However, anyone can come to the clinic for a walk-in.
“And we allow them two visits, walk-in, before they have to fill out the paperwork,” Kimbrough said. “We’ve simplified it a lot because, basically, you have to be low-to-moderate income, not have insurance and obviously have a need, and then we base that on a sliding scale based on your income of whether you pay 0, you pay 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent. That’s just how we average it out.”
Since the Good Samaritan Clinic opened in 2003, Kimbrough said the organization has served more than 15,000 people. On an annual basis, the clinic sees about 500 people a month and more than 5,000 people a year.
How to donate
Donations can also be mailed to: Good Samaritan Clinic, Attention: “Gift Records,” 615 N. B St., Fort Smith, AR 72901.
The phone number for the organization is (479) 783-0233.
In speaking about who carries out the services of the Good Samaritan Clinic, Kimbrough said the organization has a main medical provider in its nurse practitioner, Melissa Morton. When the clinic first opened, it had an array of different resources, including a hired physician and volunteer doctors.
“Now, as times and obviously medicine changes, we operate with a nurse practitioner that’s here every day, and she collaborates with our medical director, who is Dr. Leslie Ziegler, and she has a collaborative agreement with her that’s obviously certified under the state board of nursing, so it’s a wonderful relationship,” Kimbrough said.
Kimbrough said beyond this, there are a wide variety of nurses and doctors who volunteer their time at the clinic.
When asked why she believed the services the Good Samaritan Clinic provides are important for the local area as a whole, Morton said the organization tends to see many people who do not have insurance, and if they were to get sick, they would miss work and would not be able to buy the medicines on which they should normally be.
“And so we kind of fill that gap as we help them get medicines that are needed to take care of themselves and kind of have a health promotion,” Morton said. “So we’re promoting health among the community and trying to provide a safe place for them to come when they are sick.”
One of the clinic nurses, Sara Edwards, said in addition to providing everything Morton mentioned, the clinic is also very interested in a whole-health approach because while a person may come in for a certain issue, she believes it excels at addressing issues they may not be aware that they have and other needs.
“We have a lot of resources that we outsource to, and a lot of connections that we’re able to help them in other areas as well,” Edwards said. “So I kind of look at it as overall mental, physical, spiritual health that we’re interested in.”