Iredell County’s only free medical clinic, HealthReach Community Clinic, is celebrating a new partnership to serve low-income, uninsured residents of Iredell County. Starting in July, Prevent Blindness North Carolina (PBNC) began providing education, information, referral services and vision screening for HealthReach patients.
Professionals from PBNC traveled to HealthReach last month to educate clinicians and provide free resources to aid them in screening patients for visual impairment. PBNC returned Aug. 12 and provided 50 of the clinic’s patients with free retinal imaging. This specialized test gives doctors a digital image of the retina, blood vessels and optic nerve. It is an important tool for finding certain diseases and checking ocular health.
“We are thrilled about this partnership!” said HealthReach Executive Director Dr. Sabrina Niggel. “So many of our patients are at high risk for serious vision problems, but thanks to Prevent Blindness North Carolina, we now have hope for early intervention and treatment.”
Niggel pointed out that many HealthReach patients have diabetes, which is associated with a greater risk for eye disorders such as cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy. Retinal imaging allows ophthalmologists and optometrists to detect the early signs of these and other conditions.
Founded in 1967 as an affiliate of Prevent Blindness America, PBNC works to preserve sight through screening, publications, safety, education, information and referral. PBNC's mission is to reach people before blindness strikes.
Growing Need in Iredell County
Niggel says that HealthReach has developed new clinical partnerships such as the one with PBNC to serve an increasing number of patients who do not have health insurance and have limited means to pay for care.
“We’ve been richly blessed by so many people coming together to help serve our uninsured neighbors,” says HealthReach board chair Martha Michael. “We have greater capacity to provide charitable health care services than we’ve had in a long time. And that’s a good thing, because we are experiencing an increase in the number of people needing care.”
HealthReach offers free medical care and medications to individuals living in Iredell County who have no health insurance and who fall below 250% of the federal poverty level. The clinic has been in operation since 2003 and is located at 400 E. Statesville Avenue, in the same block as Iredell County Municipal Services South building.
Paid and volunteer health care professionals provide primary care, a pharmacy, labs, some specialty care, chiropractic services, social work, and referrals for services that cannot be offered onsite at HealthReach. Qualifying patients can enroll at the clinic and receive free care for up to one year. At the end of the one-year enrollment period, they can re-certify if they still meet eligibility criteria.