TAMPA BAY TIMES: LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Florida’s Free Clinics Providing for the Uninsured
Tampa Bay Times, January 30, 2017
Every year, Florida’s free and charitable clinics serve tens of thousands of low-income, uninsured and underserved Floridians.
As executive director of the Clearwater Free Clinic, I see firsthand the people who are impacted and benefit directly from the clinic’s medical and behavioral health services, from chronic disease management to lifesaving cancer treatment.
In 2016, the more than 100 volunteer-driven free clinics of the Florida Association of Free & Charitable Clinics received $10 million in appropriations. As champions for the underserved, state Sen. Jack Latvala and Reps. Chris Sprowls and Larry Ahern gave their full support to this effort, for which we are grateful.
Our clinic’s share of this appropriation has helped fund an additional nurse practitioner, expand behavioral health services and increase programs. The Legislature’s support has significantly benefited our local community by helping us address the ongoing needs of 73 percent of clinic patients who have one or more chronic illnesses.
Maintaining this level of funding for free clinics in 2017 is important. Continued appropriations provide access to critical health care services for the staggering number of Florida’s uninsured.
Healthier individuals are more independent and are able to remain working, remain in school or find a job. This contributes to the health of our community and decreases overall health care costs by preventing avoidable hospitalizations.
The Clearwater Free Clinic and our state network of free clinics continue to be the backbone of affordable health care for the uninsured in Florida. We hope we can count on continued support from the Legislature in 2017.
Jeannie Shapiro, Executive Director, Clearwater Free Clinic, Clearwater