By Justin Coby
Recently, I made a trip to Columbus to attend a ceremony organized by a dear friend. I, as many do, know I didn’t have to drive the statehouse capitol building to discover the works of a gem that is still in our own backyard.
When I was asked to become the Executive Director of Health Partners Free Clinic I was honored to be considered having the ability, drive and faith, to pick up the mantle of our trailblazing leader. Shaken to the core from that request, but comforted in knowing that Deb Miller was willing to turn over something that had become a passion to her, eased the decision-making.
Deb is now the Executive Director of the Ohio Association of Free Clinics located in Columbus. She still lives in West Milton and leads the statewide operation with a rugged commuting schedule.
During her time there, Deb and her staff have worked with free clinic personnel to improve every aspect of what they do. They educate and equip leaders in planning and delivering quality healthcare for the uninsured and underserved.
Earlier this year, the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 320, 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.
It was Deb who provided undaunted support for the passage of that bill.
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 Ohio Department of Health (ODH).
Health Partners is proud to part of that group. Our results for last year included over $3 million worth of healthcare, for 1,137 patients as a result of 4,263 visits. If it weren’t for Deb, these numbers would have been impossible to attain.
Her work has also caught the eye of state officials. At the Columbus ceremony, ODH Director Rick Hodges said he invited himself to be part of the ceremony. He touted Deb’s efforts and the important role of these clinics.
It’s important to know that her type of heart is what keeps clinics such as ours alive. It’s that same spirit we honored recently with our annual volunteer appreciation dinner. More than 70 people attended the event which was but a small token of appreciation for their precious time spent with us.
Part of the statehouse gathering was to declare December as Free Clinic Appreciation Month. While only one month received the official state recognition (which is greatly appreciated), those of us at the grass roots level know it’s a 24/7 effort to put your heart into the clinic.
Without our staff, volunteers, benefactors and prayer partners, we simply wouldn’t exist. So, I want to thank Deb for sowing the seeds that allows me and others to continue on the grass roots level. And to all who have answered the call to help our clinic be an important part in people’s lives and community, you are greatly appreciated.
Justin Coby has been the Executive Director of Health Partners Free Clinic in Troy since 2007. He attended Ohio Northern University. He also works as a local pharmacist.