BLUE HILL — With the impending departure of two stalwart volunteers, the Peninsula Free Health Clinic renewed its plea for donations, volunteers and board members.
The clinic’s mission is simple.
“We will see anybody who has no insurance or is underinsured,” said board member Jan Snow of Blue Hill.
The clinic’s board president, Jim Schatz of Blue Hill, who was one of the clinic’s founding board members, is leaving Maine to start a new life in Kentucky with his wife, Marcia.
Marcia herself has spent countless hours since 2016 as the clinic’s volunteer office administrator and fundraiser.
“We need more participation,” said Jim Schatz.
Jim and Marcia carried a torch first lit by Dr. Jane Garfield, who founded the clinic with Dr. Robert Walker in 2013. Both physicians have since retired.
A bit of history:
Garfield founded the clinic in the basement of the First Congregational Church in Blue Hill after the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
During an interview then, Garfield said she was opening a free clinic because there were about 70,000 people without health insurance in Maine. That was despite passage of the Affordable Care Act — which had been intended to make health care more affordable.
Six years later, the services of a free medical clinic are still needed, Jim said.
“The demand seems to be always there,” Jim said. “It doesn’t seem to diminish.”
Funding comes from private donations as well as grants. Jim said the Lawrence family, which operates Tradewinds Marketplace in Blue Hill, has been generous.
More donors would help, but donating to a free medical clinic “is not sexy,” Jim said.
The clinic needs someone devoted to fundraising and grant writing. That had been Marcia’s intention, but she ended up spending most of her time as a volunteer office administrator.
Snow said the clinic’s name is the Peninsula Free Medical Clinic but the services offered are not free for the clinic itself. The expenses include malpractice insurance for its medical staff as well as utilities and supplies.
The clinic also pays for patients to have testing, including X-rays and lab tests at Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital.
The Schatzes said there is a stigma surrounding those without health insurance.
“It’s embarrassing for people to say ‘I don’t have insurance,’” said Marcia. “Sometimes people are really on the edge of something serious. The people we’re seeing really need help now.”
Fear and embarrassment can cause people to postpone seeking treatment, Jim said.
Board member Janet Simpson of Brooksville summed up the perspective of a clinic patient: “You’re not only asking for help, you’re feeling crappy and you’re scared.”
The clinic does have good news.
Dr. John Tyler of Blue Hill, recently retired from Maine Maritime Academy, has joined the volunteer staff.
Tyler’s first office hours were Monday, June 17, from 3 to 6 p.m. No appointment is necessary.
The clinic is also open the third Wednesday of the month from 3 to 6 p.m. with certified nurse practitioner Linda Napier.
There is another physician, Dr. Michelle Perkins, who usually volunteers on the first Monday of the month from 3 to 6 p.m.
Check the clinic’s Facebook page or call 374-5585 for more information about office hours.
The clinic is located at 26 Hinckley Ridge Road in Blue Hill, next to the School Union 93 superintendent’s office.
To volunteer or donate, call 374-5585 and leave a message. A board member will get back to you, Snow said.