In June, I wrote a column about the Northwest Visitor’s Center on U.S. 421, just past exit 282, a tourist stop in our county that is largely forgotten.  Local people pass by every day, but don’t think about stopping in.

Recently, I found out about another local agency mostly hidden from public view which is providing a much needed   service, the Foothills Free Medical Clinic.

The clinic operates the second Saturday of every month from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. at 1207 Central Street, Unit #7, Wilkesboro, down the street from Cagney’s Restaurant, and has been at the present location since 2013. Prior to that, the clinic was housed for three years at Celebration Church on Boone Trail, North Wilkesboro.

Patients seen at the clinic are those without any health insurance.

In North Carolina, to qualify for Medicaid you must be either pregnant, blind, have a disability or have a family member in your household with a disability, be responsible for children under 19 years of age or be 65 years of age or older.

To enroll in ObamaCare, or the Affordable Care Act, an individual needs an income of $12,140 and a couple needs an income of $16,450. Foothills Free Medical Clinic sees those individuals who “fall between the cracks,” who neither qualify for ObamaCare or Medicaid.

The clinic’s purpose is, according to their brochure, “to provide free care and complete wellness to the poor and under-insured in our community.”

All the doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, chiropractors, lab technicians and staff are 100% volunteers and receive no compensation for providing their services. The clinic receives no federal or charity foundation funding, but is a 501(3)C corporation, so donations are tax-deductible. Donations go toward providing medication for patients and for operational expenses such as power and telephone.

Services provided include general medicine, minor surgery, minor orthopedics, chiropractic, naturopathic nutrition, laboratory testing and more. All labs and services are provided free to all patients. Some medication is provided and some can be purchased at greatly reduced prices at local pharmacies.  However, no narcotics are prescribed.

The Foothills Free Medical Clinic views itself as a mission to Wilkes County. Volunteers from the community are needed on clinic days to support the staff. Over the years, church groups have provided breakfast, coffee and juice to those coming to the clinic.

According to Dr. Ken Curl, one of the clinic’s volunteer physicians, transportation is a difficult issue for the clinic. Wilkes Transportation Authority (WTA) doesn’t operate on the weekends, so patients often have no way to get to them.

Foothills Free Medical Clinic’s next day of operation will be Nov. 9, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Registration is taken from 8-10 a.m. Patients are seen on a first-come-first-served basis. Flu shots will be provided for those who qualify.    

For more information, text 336-428-6014 or check the Foothills Free Medical Clinic Facebook page.

Wilkes Health Department

Another option for people without health insurance is the Wilkes Health Department, 306 College Street, Wilkesboro.  Services are offered for adults and children on a sliding scale, based on income.

The Health Department is on the WTA route, which goes through Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Some of the services provided include immunizations, well/sick care, prenatal care, dental health, sexual health/birth control and diabetes/nutritional counseling and health promotion.

Office hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, call 336-651-7450.

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