Stamford-based AmeriCares will open its fourth free clinic this fall, this time with plans to serve the community the global aid organization calls home.
"We've been wanting to do this for a long time, and over the course of the last couple years we've looked at it much more closely," said AmeriCares Free Clinics Executive Director Karen Gottlieb.
The nonprofit global health and disaster-relief organization headquartered on Hamilton Avenue is best known for distributing more than $10 billion in humanitarian aid and medical supplies across more than 160 countries in the 30 years since it was founded in New Canaan, but AmeriCares is no stranger to providing aid in its backyard.
In addition to responding to disasters around the globe, AmeriCares also has a history of providing $6.2 million in free care for more than 3,000 Fairfield County residents annually through three free clinics based in Bridgeport, Norwalk and Danbury.
The new Stamford clinic will operate using the same model as the existing clinics, according to AmeriCares spokeswoman Donna Porstner.
"It will serve low-income, uninsured residents of Darien and Stamford -- people with no Medicare, no Medicaid, no insurance whether private or government," Porstner said.
While that may seem like a small segment of the population, a recent AmeriCares analysis shows that slightly more than one-fifth of Stamford's population -- which amounts to more than 20,000 people -- is uninsured. This population is overwhelmingly comprised of adults over the age of 18, since there are so many social programs available to children. For this reason, the clinic will only serve adult patients, at least at the beginning, according to Gottlieb.
Stamford Hospital, which has the second-highest rate of uncompensated care in the state, and Quest Diagnostics are partnering with AmeriCares in the effort to launch the clinic, which will offer access to everything from X-Rays and MRIs to lab work for patients.
The clinic will begin on wheels, as AmeriCares equips its 40-foot mobile unit to serve as a temporary home, serving three locations in Stamford three days a week. Once the unit is up and running, AmeriCares staff will analyze patient data to determine the neighborhoods with the greatest usage and need, and plant the permanent location where it best suits patients.
"This gives us a great opportunity to be visible throughout the city, as well as giving us the time to take a look at where the majority of the patients are coming from as we begin to look at a permanent site six months down the road," said Gottlieb.
AmeriCares employees are preparing for the launch of the clinic, spending their time fundraising and wrangling doctors and other health- care professionals to volunteer their services.
"Our goal with this population is to keep them well, keep them employed, keep them out of the ER and out of the hospital," said Gottlieb.
She hopes that adding a new option for free care will do just that.
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