POWHATAN – The Free Clinic of Powhatan is kicking its efforts back into high gear this summer after several months of lying low because of COVID-19 precautions.
The month of July in particular has been busy for the local nonprofit as it renewed efforts on its capital campaign, saw work beginning on its future home on Skaggs Road, and reopened its doors for in-person consultation, said Connie Moslow, executive director.
The Free Clinic of Powhatan, currently located at 3908 Old Buckingham Road, offers health services (medical, dental, mental health, women's health) free of charge for uninsured and low income residents of Powhatan County.
“We have been here for 13 years so I really feel like we have proved our value, and I think we are going to be very much needed now. We are still nowhere out of this COVID-19 struggle and we are going to be here for people with this struggle,” she said.
So far, the Free Clinic is about $1.2 million into its $2 million “Campaign for Health, Campaign for Hope,” which it announced in fall 2019 to renovate the new space it will be moving to in 2020 on Skaggs Road, outfit it, and expand services, Moslow said. The campaign was paused during the last few months when COVID-19 was shutting everything down, but since the problem doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon while the need only grows, organizers decided to keep moving forward.
“It is a more difficult time but I think it is also a good time to realize how valuable the clinic is and has been for Powhatan,” she said.
Despite the break, Moslow said she is pleased with how the fundraising campaign is evolving, especially since they basically lost about three months of focus on it. She added the campaign received a nice boost in December 2019 when the clinic was awarded matching grants from the Cabell Foundation and The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation totaling $350,000. Both grants have been matched.
Relaunching the capital campaign was partly motivated by work beginning on the Free Clinic’s future home, which is the former school administration offices at 2320 Skaggs Road. With the school administration offices now located in the Pocahontas Landmark Center on Anderson Highway, the space it used to occupy will be renovated for the Free Clinic and to house the county’s public works and IT departments.
The Free Clinic hired contractor Woolfolk Construction Inc. to demolish and renovate its portion of the 7,600-square-foot building. The clinic will take up 3,600 square feet, and the county departments will have the remaining 4,000 square feet.
The contractor began work tearing out the old walls and materials in the clinic’s portion of the Skaggs Road building on June 29 and has given the clinic an estimated renovation project length of 120 work days, Moslow said.
“We have a long way to go to make it the county’s new free clinic site with on-site dental services, examination rooms, a lab room, mental health/counseling rooms, a welcoming waiting room, and offices, etc.,” Moslow said, adding that the new space will allow the clinic to add additional hours, programs, services, staff members, and patients.
Giving an update on the county’s side of the building, public works director Ramona Carter said its contractor, Brooks & Co., began its contract on July 13. The contractor has 180 days to complete the project and is currently scheduled to be completed around the end of November, she said. The total cost of the county’s side of the project is $412,300. Carter also pointed out that the project received 16 bids, “which is really unheard of out in Powhatan.”
“And all of the bids were very close; there weren’t huge gaps, which says people were bidding it honestly,” she said.
The Free Clinic has been located in part of the Powhatan Health Department for 13 years but had been telling county officials for a while that it had outgrown its space. Moslow feels that extra space will be needed more than ever now, both because of a possible increased demand on the clinic’s services and the lack of space to follow good social distancing guidelines.
The existing clinic has been open but it has been doing treatment and prescriptions over the phone with lab patients coming in for their appointments. But in August, the clinic will return to allowing all patients to come to the clinic for service.
“For the first couple months (of COVID-19) we had closed registration for any new patients, and now we have opened that up again,” Moslow said.
Some of the patients have been hesitant about coming back in person to receive treatment while others are fine with it, Moslow said. The clinic’s focus has been on making sure they were well protected, including the installation of new safety equipment, limiting how many people can be in the waiting room, and screening patients for COVID-19 outside before allowing them in the building.
The clinic has now increased its mental health/counseling services and raised the level of income for one to receive services making it so many more people will be eligible for treatment, Moslow said. Across the nation, the rates of spousal abuse, child abuse, alcohol and substance abuse and social isolation have increased in the general population in the months since the pandemic started, she said.
“The clinic is here to help Powhatan folks handle these issues that are causing extreme stress to many individuals. These conditions affect the whole family. The Free Clinic has a professional mental health counselor and a psychiatrist on staff to address these many situations,” she said.
For more information about the Free Clinic of Powhatan and its services, or to contribute to the capital campaign, call 804-598-5637.