Western Tidewater Free Clinic gives update, asks for continued support

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, May 8, 2024

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The Windsor Town Council learned details at its April 9 meeting about how the town’s support of the Western Tidewater Free Clinic has helped high-risk patients, including those in Windsor.

Western Tidewater Free Clinic Board of Directors member Ellen Saunders was present at the meeting to represent the clinic, thanking the council for its support in the past and requesting its continued support in the future.

“I want to thank you on behalf of the clinic’s Board of Directors and the patients we serve for your recent support,” she said. “Your support will help us continue to serve the very high-risk patients who need us, keeping them out of the emergency department unnecessarily.”

She noted that 6% of the clinic’s patients are from Windsor. For fiscal year 2022-23, the WTFC served 88 Windsor residents through 696 visits and 43 dental patients through 111 visits.

“Since opening our doors, Western Tidewater Free Clinic has provided care to more than 7,400 unduplicated patients who’ve been treated through over 212,000 medical, dental, mental health eligibility visits and pharmacy consults,” she said.

She explained that these patients have received more than 306,000 free medications with a retail value of more than $58.4 million.

“We continue to see a growing need in our dental and mental health care programs,” she said. “To meet this need, we added two additional mental health nurse practitioners in ’23, and we recently expanded our dental clinic from two chairs to four, and those two additional chairs became operational in mid-December.”

She said that the new dental expansion will allow the clinic to increase services by as much as 36% in the first year. 

Just since the addition of the two chairs in mid-December, the clinic has already seen a 9% increase in patients, she explained.

“Providing our critically ill patients with a health home at the clinic allows them to receive the care they so desperately need to reclaim and improve their health and their lives,” she said to Town Council members. “This would not be possible without you.

“Patients, like Carrie — not her real name — may have had a very different outcome without your support,” Saunders continued. “Carrie was experiencing severe dental pain and struggling to eat due to issues with her teeth.”

Saunders said Carrie was reading the newspaper one day and came across an article about the dental program at the free clinic and felt compelled to reach out for help.

“Carrie decided to become a dental patient at the clinic and considers herself incredibly fortunate to have discovered this resource,” Saunders said. “Due to a lack of necessary dental care, Carrie had to undergo extractions of most of her teeth. However, thanks to the exceptional care we’re able to provide, she now has a full set of dentures and couldn’t be happier.

“Carrie praises the clinic for addressing her dental needs effectively and ensuring she experiences no further problems with her teeth,” Saunders added.

Saunders noted that in particular, Carrie expressed gratitude toward the dental coordinator at the clinic, saying she consistently treated her with warmth and kindness.

“When asked about her thoughts on the clinic, Carrie enthusiastically describes it as ‘great, just great!’” Saunders said. “She emphasizes that she cannot find any other words to describe her experience besides ‘great,’ ‘wonderful’ and ‘a blessing.’”

Saunders indicated that Carrie’s story highlights the positive impact that the dental program at the clinic has had on Carrie’s life, providing her with much-needed dental care and allowing her to eat normally without the tooth pain.

“The financial support of this council and the community allows us to continue to serve those who desperately need us in our 2,200-square-mile service area,” Saunders said.

Windsor Town Manager William Saunders confirmed in a Thursday, April 18, email interview that in fiscal year 2024, the town contributed $2,400 to the Western Tidewater Free Clinic.

“We hope you will consider the free clinic in your 2024-25 budget,” Ellen Saunders said at the April 9 meeting.

William Saunders also confirmed Thursday that an allocation of $2,400 for the clinic is in the current draft for the town’s FY25 budget.

At the conclusion of her presentation during the April 9 council meeting, Ellen Saunders once again thanked the council for its investment in the mission of the WTFC, and she invited council members to come tour the clinic and see Windsor’s investment at work.

“I would love for you to see the new dental clinic; it’s fabulous,” she said. “When we first opened out there by where Obici is now, it was such a tiny facility, and we were just kind of making do for our patients, and now when you walk in and see this is what all of us who can afford dental care… this is what our dental offices look like, and it’s so exciting that we’re able to offer that for the patients in need.”