There’s a considerable act of trust taking place at Shepherd’s Care Medical Clinic.
The eastern Wake County region’s only free medical clinic, which serves the uninsured, is in the final stages of an expansion despite facing a June 30 expiration date on its primary revenue source, grant funding from the N.C. Office of Rural Health.
Making matters more hairy, the Zebulon clinic won’t find out until April or May if it has been selected for continued support from the state.
“Trust – that’s all we can do,” said Leona Doner, the clinic’s founder and executive director. “When you tell people that, they can’t understand it. But this has been God’s work from the beginning and if He wants it to stay open, it will stay open. We just have to live it day-by-day and trust it happens.”
Doner has considered what the clinic may be up against if it doesn’t land the grant, which awards $150,000 annually for three years.
“Our hours would be cut back, our ability to draw labs would get cut back,” she said. “Unless the patients can pay for labs themselves, we’d be in-between a a rock and a hard place. But we will not shut our doors. As long as we can pay rent and utilities, I’m going to keep the doors open somehow. There’s too many people that count on us.”
Continuing to grow
The grant that is now fading has helped transition the clinic from one that was once open one night per week with one doctor on duty to one that now sees patients four days and one night per week with a staff of 18.
About $120,000 of the funding covers part-time pay for Doner, a bilingual receptionist, a physician and a nurse. The rest helps pay for clinic, lab and office supplies. The grant does not pay for rent or utilities.
But Shepherd’s Care will hardly be on easy street even if the grant is renewed.
The clinic has been functioning on a budget just under the $200,000 mark; public donations, accumulated savings and miracles, as Doner put it, have complemented the grant money. Its budget for 2015 is about $212,000.
The projected rise in expenses is mainly due to new services Shepherd’s Care plans to offer, and rent more than doubling as the clinic expands into the other half of the home-like building it occupies on Pony Road.
Doner said the clinic has been paying for the extra space since November. It will give existing services some room to stretch out and provide space for those the clinic is adding – behavior health, gynecological and medical nutritional counseling.
“We’re tying to make it so we have everything there, so there’s a better continuity there for the patients,” Doner said. “Some people said, ‘If you are in need of funding, where do you get the money for this expansion?’ The only way we got the expansion is someone donated $3,000 toward building supplies, the renovation is being done by volunteers and other help has been donated.”
Fund search ongoing
As of early last week, plumbing was the only thing left on the to-do list before Doner pursues a certificate of occupancy on the new wing. She hopes to open the space by the start of April.
In the meantime, she is thinking of other places to find funding. She said Wake County’s classification as a Tier 3 county by the N.C. Department of Commerce makes that process difficult. Tier 1 counties are considered the poorest counties in the state.
“When you’re in a Tier 3 county, the money is not all that available to you on grants like they are in Tier 2 and Tier 1 counties,” Doner said.
Doner said some smaller, private grants are more easily obtainable.
“If it’s a $150,000 grant and it ends, that’s $150,000 gone,” she said. “If I get a lot of small grants and one steps out of the picture, it’s not as bad, not nearly as damaging, and you can sometimes hold the smaller grants longer than some of the bigger ones.”
For more information Shepherd’s Care Medical Clinic, or to make a donation, call the clinic at 919-404-2474.