On the surface, it’s hard to imagine Shepherd’s Care Medical Clinic is facing financial pressure.
Founder and Executive Director Leona Doner is aiming to expand the clinic into the other half of the building it occupies at 304 Pony Road.
In the extra space, Doner wants the eastern Wake County region’s only free medical clinic, which serves the uninsured, to offer new services like women’s reproductive health care, eye exams, counseling and nutritional programming.
But a deadline looms on grant funding that has helped Shepherd’s Care grow to the point it has since opening its doors at the Zebulon site in 2010. A $150,000 annual grant from the N.C. Office of Rural Health, awarded in 2012, is slated to expire next summer.
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The grant enabled the passage from a clinic that was once open one night per week with one doctor on duty to one that now sees patients four days per week with a staff of 12.
About $120,000 of the funding covers part-time pay for Doner, a bilingual receptionist, a physician’s assistant and a certified medical assistant. The rest helps pay for clinic, lab and office supplies. The grant does not pay for rent or utilities.
Doner would lose her paycheck with the loss of the revenue source, but says she doesn’t care.
“This clinic means a lot to me,” she said. “But it’s not mine. It belongs to the people.”
Shepherd’s Care budgeted for $197,000 for the 2013 year. Beyond the grant, the clinic gets about $15,000 annually from public donations. The budget is balanced by way of a mix of accumulated savings and miracles, Doner said.
Projected expenses for 2015, factoring in the price of rent doubling for the prospective expansion, are about $225,000.
“This is God’s – if he wants to keep the doors open, he will,” Doner said. “It hurts me to think about all the people we’ve been able to help and all the people we still need to help, that if we close our doors where are they going to go?”
At the same time, the need for the clinic continues to grow. Doner says for every patient the clinic releases to the Affordable Care Act, it will pick up two or three who do not qualify for that coverage.
The clinic is looking for other grants to replace the outgoing Rural Health funding, but with little luck so far. The process is complicated, Doner says, by Wake County’s classification as a Tier 3 county by the N.C. Department of Commerce.
“(Wake County) is considered not needing grants as much as Tier 1 counties for state and federal funding and some private funding organizations,” Doner said. “We’re looking at revenue sources, but there’s not really a lot to find out there. There’s a lot of people trying to get their hands in those pots.”
In an effort to stabilize the clinic’s finances, Doner is searching for people that are willing to pledge a set amount – even as little as $10-$15 – each month.
“Not that we don’t appreciate the one-time donations,” she said, “but it helps us better understand what we have coming in every month if we have pledges for donations.”