As was the case for many entities receiving public funding, free health clinics were not spared Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s 7.5 percent budget cut. Linda West, executive director of the West Virginia Association Of Free Clinics, told legislators Monday the cuts mean about $300,000 for the clinics across the state.
Through the public-private partnership with the state and pharmaceutical companies, clinics are able to turn one dollar of support into $30 of service, said Patricia White, executive director of West Virginia Health Right, a healthcare provider for low income communities.
The clinics serve about 60,000 people every year, mainly those who are homeless or can’t afford to go to a hospital, White said. They also serve military veterans who need additional support beyond what is provided to them after they leave the service, she added. The clinics rely on volunteer practitioners, who often donate their money to the cause as well, she said. Lines are out the door for the clinics though, so more support is always welcomed, she said.
Democrats Ricky Moye of Raleigh County and Clif Moore of McDowell County sang the praises of the free clinics. Both said the clinics deserve more public support, and Moore pledged it would come to a vote. Del. Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, questioned whether the clinics could work closer with local health departments in order to prevent
some duplication of duties; White agreed there is some overlap, but clinics and departments already work together and both are swamped with patients.
White and West spoke to the House Health Committee just to provide more information about the clinics. No official action was taken by the committee.