A Publication of WTVP

Getting people back on their feet when chronic medical issues arise…

Every week, Arden Muller meets face to face with potential and current patients of the St. Francis Community Clinic. From fast-food workers to cosmologists, Muller, patient financial counselor of the Community Clinic, is the first stop for those with chronic medical issues.

“I enjoy meeting the people and listening to their stories,” says Muller. “The Community Clinic is an extremely important piece of the Sisters’ mission—‘Serving with the Greatest Care and Love.’”

The facility currently serves 350 to 400 patients who are not provided health insurance through their employers. Muller compassionately calls these individuals the “chronically underemployed” in the Peoria community.

A more than 70-year history exists for this not-for-profit program in Peoria. Today, it offers free healthcare to patients who meet specific financial and medical guidelines. However, it has transformed greatly since 1942, when the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis started the free healthcare assistance program.

“It was started for widows and orphans during World War II,” explains Cindy Traver, director of OSF Sisters Community Healthcare. “But it has evolved throughout the years, and now helps those living with chronic medical conditions.”

St. Francis Community Clinic is often confused with the Sisters Community Healthcare Center. That’s because a number of freestanding OSF clinics were merged together and relocated to the Allied Agencies Building on East Armstrong Avenue in 1999 to share administration and support staff. St. Francis Community Clinic was one of the entities included in the co-location. So while it shares administration and staffing, it remains a separate corporation, subject to the OSF Board, with its own board of directors.

St. Francis Community Clinic remains the only free clinic in Peoria and, as such, does not treat patients who have any form of insurance, including Medicaid. The typical patient is one who falls through the cracks. He or she is employed and their employer does not provide benefits, yet their income is too high to qualify for Medicaid. “The need in the community is so great… Our goal is to try to get people back on their feet,” says Thomas.

The 2013 budget for the St. Francis Community Clinic was $7.2 million, according to Mark Windsor, senior financial analyst at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. The Sisters contribute $6.5 million, and the program also receives support from the Heart of Illinois United Way. These funding sources help further support the Sisters’ mission.

In total, there are approximately 40,000 units of service a year—from prescription refills, MRIs and emergency room visits to lab work and other medical needs. However, those needs are constantly changing. For instance, this month the Community Clinic is adding educational services for the first time. A medical professional will teach a class to diabetic patients because the need for diabetes treatment is increasing.

“[The Community Clinic] has been a great service to the people in the Peoria area,” says Traver. “It allows people to get their medications and helps them stay out of the hospital.”

It is Arden’s job to interview the patients prior to qualifying for Community Clinic services, and each patient must re-interview once every six months. “Most patients are grateful,” says Arden. “And, that makes your job worthwhile.”

Arden cites one example where a patient continually told him that they wanted to give back to show their gratitude. When the patient’s mother passed away and left $9,000, this patient donated $3,000 back to the organization. “Firsthand accounts of Christian principles really make you feel great,” says Arden. “A person like that comes along often enough who makes you realize we really do make a difference.” iBi

Stephanie Franks is a public relations associate at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.