Fellowship Health Clinic offers free medical services to Hattiesburg area residents

Fellowship Health Clinic offers free medical services to Hattiesburg area residents

HATTIESBURG, MS - This is a Press Release from Fellowship Health Clinic.

According to Mississippi Department of Health data for 2014, 21% of Hattiesburg-area residents do not have health coverage. In spite of recent healthcare legislation, many people cannot afford health insurance premiums, deductibles and co-payments. Therefore, they go without health insurance.

In October 2014, a group of medical, faith, business and education leaders gathered to discuss the need for free healthcare for underserved adults in the Hattiesburg area. From that conversation, Fellowship Health Clinic (FHC) was born. The mission of the clinic is to marshal volunteer lay and professional resources to provide high quality medical, dental, and pharmaceutical care at no cost to eligible uninsured and underinsured residents of Forrest and Lamar counties in Mississippi.

On Sunday, January 10, a dedication service will be held at 2 p.m. to unveil the newly remodeled space known as Fellowship Health Clinic. The clinic is located in the former Grand Affairs Bakery building at 1919 Edwards St. Most recently, this building was used for children's and community programs sponsored by Edwards Street Fellowship Center (ESFC). According to ESFC Executive Director Ann McCullen, "We are delighted to see God's latest plan for this building. Through the generosity of Hattiesburg Clinic, Landry and Lewis Architects, and Fairley Construction, this space has been transformed from an activities building to a medical clinic complete with two exam rooms, a lab, consultation room, lobby and nurse's office. Local artists including Dollye Kirk and Cindy Fortenberry have donated some of their amazing artwork to bring light and beauty to the space."

The FHC steering committee has met regularly for 15 months to organize all aspects of the free clinic. Members of the Fellowship Health Clinic steering committee are Merit Wesley Work Well medical director Dr. Stephen Beam, Word of Faith pastor and retired physician Dr. Orlando Burt, pathologist Dr. Tim Cole, St. Fabian Catholic Church priest Father Tommy Conway, nurse practitioner Claudine Feig, USM School of Social Work instructor Debbie Graham, surgeon Dr. Lewis Hatten, retired nurse Joan Holland, William Carey University Provost Dr. Scott Hummel, Petal dentist Dr. Barbara Mauldin, Edwards Street Fellowship Center executive director Ann McCullen, Forrest General Healthcare Foundation President Bill Oliver, attorney and Bryan Nelson, P.A. partner David Ott, Hattiesburg Clinic CEO Tommy Thornton and William Carey University medical students Daniel Cirino, Eric Dean and Chris Oglesby.

Volunteer medical director of the clinic is Dr. Stephen Beam and health services coordinator is nurse practitioner Claudine Feig. Additional medical and lay volunteers are being recruited to begin serving in the clinic this spring. Referrals will be requested by FHC providers for local medical personnel to treat FHC patients in their offices by appointment.

The clinic serves patients in three key areas, all at no cost to the patient. Services include dental referral, non-controlled prescription medication, and medical care. Clients requiring free dental services are referred to generous volunteer dentists, oral surgeons, and dental hygienists in the greater Hattiesburg area. Free dental referral services began in April 2015. William Carey medical students volunteer in the Edwards Street Fellowship Center food pantry lobby one morning per week. After talking with adult clients and conducting health history assessments, the students refer clients for free tooth extractions by one of seven general dentists or three oral surgeons who agreed to provide extractions in their offices by appointments. Clients can also be referred for free dental cleanings by dental hygiene students at the Forrest County campus of Pearl River Community College. Since the referral program kicked off in April, over 200 adults have been interviewed and more than 55% have subsequently been referred for an extraction or cleaning.

Free non-controlled prescription medications are provided in partnership with the St. Vincent de Paul Community Pharmacy of Biloxi, which has served the Mississippi Gulf Coast since 1998. The FHC pharmacy, which is a needs-based program, provides eligible patients non-controlled medicine for up to six months. During that six months, the staff works to connect the individual with any other resources available. Community Pharmacy is licensed by the Mississippi State Board of Pharmacy as a closed door pharmacy. It is staffed by eight licensed pharmacists who volunteer their time. Prescriptions are filled at their Biloxi location and mailed directly to Hattiesburg patients' homes. Since February 2015, over 200 non-narcotic prescriptions have been filled for FHC clients at no cost to the clients. Clients are screened by volunteer social workers and medical personnel. Because those who qualify for assistance from this "pharmacy of last resort" have medications mailed to their homes or another designated address, no medications are kept on site at Fellowship Health Clinic.

According to McCullen, "The people we're seeing for pharmacy services are primarily the working poor. Clients include an elderly man whose retirement income is insufficient to pay for his ten daily medications, one of which is insulin that costs over $600 per month. And a custodian whose part-time income does not cover the expensive prescriptions that treat her autoimmune disease. Without Fellowship Health Clinic, these clients-- and many others-- would go without necessary medicines that vastly improve their quality of life. We are exceedingly grateful for the generosity of St. Vincent de Paul's Community Pharmacy in providing these prescription medications to folks in Hattiesburg."

Providers at the medical clinic will begin seeing patients by appointment this month. FHC will provide general wellness exams and follow-up care to uninsured individuals who are at least 18 years of age living in Forrest and Lamar counties. All January appointment openings have been filled. Appointments for February will be available beginning January 18. Initially, the clinic will be open two mornings per month. Additional times and days will be added later this spring.

Fellowship Health Clinic will offer integrated care provided by the Medical Director, nursing students and faculty from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) College of Nursing, students and faculty from the USM School of Social Work, medical students from William Carey University, and additional medical and health professional volunteers. According to FHC health services coordinator Claudine Feig, "By working together as a community, FHC can provide sustainable care that will ultimately improve the quality of life for the underserved in the Hattiesburg area."
FHC is a member of the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. The clinic received a grant of $10,000 from the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church to implement the pharmacy program, a $20,000 grant from the Mapp Family Foundation for a Health Services Coordinator, and a $35,000 CVS Coordinated Care grant to cover costs associated with integrated care, education and accessibility to services. Other funding has been received through donations from the general public. FHC is part of Edwards Street Fellowship Center, which is a 501(c)(3) organization. Tax-deductible donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 17532, Hattiesburg, MS 39404. The clinic maintains a website, www.FellowshipClinic.org.

Referrals and services are offered in the buildings of Edwards Street Fellowship Center at 1919 Edwards Street in southeast Hattiesburg. Edwards Street Fellowship Center is a United Methodist mission center whose purpose is to "shine the light of God's love to struggling families." The center has been serving the greater Hattiesburg area since 1979. Their ministries include a food pantry, thrift store, community gardens, children's programs, Bible study, and wellness activities.