A faith-based health clinic catering to uninsured Columbia County residents recently got a financial boost from an area environmental group.
The Southeast Environmental Management Association announced July 25 that it awarded $1,500 to FaithCare, a free medical clinic that is an outreach ministry of Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans.
The award was based on the recommendation of Ron Cross, the county's commission chairman who also is a member of the church.
Cross, Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver and Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh, who participated in the association's annual conference in April, were each allotted $3,000 of conference proceeds to distribute among the charities of their choosing.
"We thought they'd have a good gauge on their own communities and where we might be able to give a little bit of money to benefit their communities," said Catherine Thomas, the association president. She said the charitable gifts are a way to thank the men for participating in the conference.
Cross said he chose to split the $3,000 - $1,500 to FaithCare and $1,500 to Richmond County's Project Access, which also provides medical care and prescription assistance.
"I felt they were really involved in the citizens of the county, and probably a good venue for that money," Cross said. Larger charities, including the American Red Cross, do great work in Columbia County but receive other funding, he said.
"These were a little more specific to the very needy and (those who) couldn't afford health insurance and medical care," the chairman said. "That is a critical issue right now."
The volunteer medical personnel at the FaithCare clinic, operated by Dr. Al Lightsey, treat uninsured Columbia County residents with minor illnesses and provide primary medical care, psychological counseling and some prescription drug assistance.
FaithCare is open from 6 to 9 p.m. every other Tuesday at the Doctors Hospital Surgery Center on Ronald Reagan Drive in Evans. The three volunteer doctors see about 12 patients. Patients must be an uninsured Columbia County resident who earns less than 150 percent of the state poverty level of $10,210.
The clinic has seen more than 300 patients and handled more than 800 visits since it opened in the fall of 2002, Lightsey said. About three-quarters of the patients are women, many of whom are single mothers. Time with a doctor is one of the values the clinic offers.
"That's one thing we can give," he said. "They are so worried and distraught when they come in here. It is just a matter of talking to them, spending time with them, acknowledging them as human beings. That in itself is medicinal. It is better than medicine. They really appreciate it."
Lightsey said doctors, nurses and other volunteers work with patients not only on medicines, but also on strategies concerning what patients can do to help themselves, including diet and exercise.
Medications are necessary for the management of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, the doctor said. FaithCare volunteers take on the labor-intensive tasks of helping patients fill out forms to qualify for discounts or free prescriptions.
Appointments are needed to be seen at FaithCare, and there is a waiting list, which patients can be added to by calling (706) 829-2584.
Lightsey said some patients come to FaithCare because it is faith based.
"If they want to pray, some of them want to do the praying, and that's fine," he said. "Many of them have strong faith already. It is often offered, especially if they are really struggling with life at that particular time."
The clinic works with the help of donations and volunteers. Physicians, nurses, physicians assistants, medical staffers and trained counselors interested in volunteering should contact the clinic at email@example.com.
"We're not fixing the health-care system," Lightsey said. "But you do help individuals."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.