For the Rev. Junius Dotson, the E.C. Tyree Health and Dental Clinic means one word to the community: hope.
“It’s a place for people who are often on the fringes of society – people who are often ignored – that know they can come and know there are people who really care, ‘people that love me, people that treat me with dignity and people who will take my needs and concerns seriously,’ ” said Dotson, the lead pastor for St. Mark United Methodist Church, which sponsors the clinic.
The clinic, at 1525 N. Lorraine, predominantly serves the uninsured and working poor.
In recent years, the number of patients it has served has exploded.
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In 2006, the clinic saw about 400 patients. In 2012, it saw 6,000.
And with a recent $500,000 expansion and renovation, staff members hope to serve even more patients – possibly 9,000 in 2013.
The 21/2-month expansion and remodel includes a renovated waiting room, children’s area, bathrooms, two new medical exam rooms, two new dental operatories and a new counseling center.
The medical side has expanded by about 1,200 square feet, and a counseling center has added 500 square feet. The project was made possible through various individuals, foundations, corporate sponsors and the church, Dotson said.
About 97 percent of dental patients are self-pay and are typically at 200 percent of the federal poverty level, according to Executive Director Schaunta James-Boyd. On the medical side, about 60 percent of patients receive Medicaid and about 34 percent are self-pay. Medical patients are typically at 150 percent of the federal poverty level.
The clinic accepts self-pay patients, Medicare, Medicaid and third-party insurance. It has a sliding fee scale for payment of services based on income and family size.
Throughout the years, the clinic has had several focuses, including HIV awareness and mental health.
Now, the clinic hopes to incorporate an integrated model of care, focusing on a patient’s physical and mental well-being, James-Boyd said.
The clinic will have a social worker to help in that capacity.
“We’re wanting the dental and medical providers to work as a team, along with a counseling component, to engage and see what else is out there to help families,” James-Boyd said. “We’re shifting to that model so clients can truly get what they need to be in a better position.”
The clinic’s budget has also reflected its exponential growth.
In 2006, the clinic had a budget of $25,000. This year, it’s $1.3 million, said Garney Hill, the clinic’s chief financial officer.
The expansion means the clinic will likely have to increase its staff size from the current 15 clinical and administrative staff members, James-Boyd said.
Several of its staff members are bilingual, speaking Spanish, French and Vietnamese, which reflects the diversity of the clinic’s patients, James-Boyd said.
Members of St. Mark United Methodist Church created a community needs assessment in the early 1980s that identified four areas of focus: voter registration, youth employment program, Martin Luther King Jr. Day recognition and a health clinic.
The clinic, then known as the St. Mark Clinic, opened in 1986 with a $22,000 grant from the Harry R. Kendall Fund.
In 1988, it expanded to include counseling and outreach services that also address alcoholism and substance abuse.
In 1990, the clinic was renamed after E.C. Tyree, a board member who had helped form the clinic, James-Boyd said. Tyree died in 2007 at the age of 93, according to an Eagle death notice.
The clinic was granted 501(c)3 nonprofit status in 2007.
It was staffed by volunteers until 2008. That same year, the clinic opened full time and started oral health services that focus on preventative and restorative care.
The clinic works with USD 259 as part of the Healthy Smiles program, which provides screening and oral health education to schoolchildren. In 2012, the clinic provided services to about 2,000 schoolchildren, James-Boyd said.