COLUMBUS — Deborah Miller of West Milton was a major advocate to streamline the operation of free medical clinics throughout Ohio; and to allow Medicaid patients greater access to healthcare through state legislation. Recently, she celebrated the passage of House Bill 320 and recognized the efforts of those operating free clinics.
Miller, who led the effort to establish Health Partners Free Clinic (HPFC) in Troy in 1999, now serves as the executive director of the Ohio Association of Free Clinics (OAFC) in Columbus. On Dec. 2, Miller joined with the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to recognize the accomplishments of Ohio’s free clinics.
Current HPFC Executive Director Justin Coby was on hand for the statehouse award service. He said Miller’s efforts in Troy, and now with the OAFC, are paramount to their successes.
“Deb’s spirit and drive to bring this type of care to Miami County’s in-need population set the bar high. We have joined in that spirit to continue operating the clinic offering the best healthcare available.”
In 2014, the 55 free clinics in Ohio provided more than $200 million worth of healthcare to more than 38,000 people through more than 72,000 patient visits, according to the ODH. The OAFC educates and equips free clinic leaders in planning and delivering quality healthcare for the uninsured and underserved.
Health Partners, others honor volunteers
The OAFC also designated December as Free Clinic Appreciation Month.
In Troy, more than 70 people attended the Health Partners volunteer appreciation dinner recently. In 2014, nearly 50 clinic volunteers provided over 4,300 hours.
Coby said, “Without our volunteers, we (HPFC) would not be who we are. It’s these people and the spirit they bring into the clinic, that helps provide the great care for our neighbors in need.”
Earlier this year, the Ohio lawmakers passed legislation, which strengthens the operations of free clinics and allows Medicaid patients to have greater access to healthcare options. It also allows physicians and dentists at eligible free clinics anywhere in Ohio to participate in ODH’s loan repayment programs.
Previously, providers could only receive these loan repayments if they worked in free clinics in designated health professional or health resource shortage areas.
“Affordable, accessible health care is essential and Ohio’s free clinics play an important role in providing both for Ohioans,” said ODH Director Rick Hodges during the ceremony.
Miller added, “The Ohio Association of Free Clinics is extremely thankful to be able to work with the Legislature and ODH to recognize the hard work of Ohio’s free clinics and the volunteers who serve there. The work being done through the free clinic systems is meeting the needs of the most at-risk individuals in Ohio; those who remain without coverage or without access to care.”
The 2015 OAFC award recipients were: Clinic of the Year: Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Community Health Programs; Physician Volunteer of the Year: Dr. Robert Cooper of the Columbus Free Clinics; Nurse Volunteer of the Year (awarded posthumously): Mary Ann Stone, RN, of the Open Arms Health Clinic of Bellbrook; and Dentist Volunteer of the Year: Dr. James Hegyi of the Viola Startzman Clinic in Wooster.