SANDPOINT — For the past 15 years, Bonner Partners in Care Clinic has offered free health care to area residents who need it.
“We are just a very small free clinic for people who don’t have insurance or who are underinsured … for anyone who maybe has very limited insurance or an extremely high deductible,” said BPICC director Amy Topp.
BPICC was launched by a group of community members in 2003 who saw a need for free health care, said Topp, who joined the group in 2009.
The clinic offers basic and chronic health needs — no emergency services are provided. Some of the services include cold and flu symptoms, blood pressure, joint pain, asthma, allergies, as well as back, neck and other areas a patient may experience pain.
“We are able to see people for a variety of those kind of instances,” Topp said. “And then a lot of our patients are patients who have come for a long time, some of them since the beginning, with chronic instances like diabetes, hypertension and thyroid disorders.”
While the clinic can provide some prescriptions, such as antibiotics or blood pressure medication, the medical providers do not prescribe narcotics.
The clinic operates out of the Panhandle Health District one night a week, alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays. The free clinic opens at 5 p.m., after PHD closes for the day.
About 30 doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, as well as administrative staff, volunteer at the clinic. Typically, Topp said, one doctor, one nurse and two administrative staff are on the schedule each week.
Peg Tuddenham, BPICC board member and retired pediatric emergency room doctor, said the clinic can see up to eight patients each week, though they usually only get four or five — one or two on some nights.
Tuddenham said she recently joined BPICC because it is a “worthy cause,” and wants to help get the word out about the clinic.
“It is absolutely free,” Tuddenham said. “We don’t ask questions. If you can’t afford care, this is where you start.”
Tuddenham said people who utilize the free community meals in the area are often those who could use free health care.
Between several of the churches in town, there is a free meal available each night of the week. Bill Litsinger, BPICC board president, said the board members have been visiting the churches and in talking to the priest at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, learned that they serve 85-90 people each Friday night. They also learned that most of the people who go to the community meals are regulars, many of whom do not have access to insurance, Litsinger said.
“That’s who we are trying to get to, and we haven’t been real successful at it,” Litsinger said.
Tuddenham and Topp said transportation is one of the biggest challenges.
“We are a little off the beaten track,” Tuddenham said. “If you don’t have money for food and you don’t have money for medical care, you might not have money for transportation.”
As a new member, Tuddenham said she would like to expand on the initial vision of the clinic someday and bring it to some of the people who need care, such as those at the community meals. Litsinger said they may be able to better serve people by picking them up and taking them to the clinic. Tuddenham said she would also like to see enough money raised to start an endowment and have a paid physician to come in each week to add continuity.
Tuddenham said the clinic has done a couple of fundraisers recently. For their next fundraiser, the community is invited to “Walk the Course” at The Idaho Club — no golfing involved. Rain or shine, the event will include an untimed, 5K walk or run along the cart path with two paths to choose from: mountain or river. The cost is $20 and fruit, bagels and juice will be available after. Registration opens at 7:30 a.m. the day of the event, Sept. 29, at The Idaho Club, 216 Clubhouse Way. The walk/run begins at 8 a.m.
For information on BPICC, visit bonnerpartnersincareclinic.org.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.