Flu update

Cassandra Batiste, a certified medical assistant, checks Dominique Harris’ vital signs Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, at the Greater Killeen Free Clinic in Killeen.

A free medical clinic in Killeen is going through changes as it enters its 25th year.

The Greater Killeen Community Clinic takes care of the medical needs of thousands of patients every year – completely free of charge.

The clinic, at 718 N 2nd Street, Suite A in Killeen, was formerly known as the Greater Killeen Free Clinic.

Executive Director Marlene DiLillo explained how the name change symbolizes the beginning of a rebranding the clinic is undergoing.

“We are going to have our 25th anniversary next year so we are going to be off to changing our logo and having a big celebration,” she said.

The clinic offers free and unbiased health care services to give everyone the opportunity to get the medical help they require. While most patients are not able to afford the complete treatment, part of the rebranding is to remind patients to take a share of their treatment plan.

“We started asking our patients to contribute a small amount towards their care,” DiLillo said. “We don’t turn patients away — we grant waivers” for those who can’t donate.

The Greater Killeen Community Clinic provides walk-in acute care services for primary care visits as well as chronic disease management by appointment. Check-in times are 3:30 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, and 8:30 a.m. on Tuesdays.

Additional services include psychiatric health as well as dental and optometry care by referral.

In 2017, the Greater Killeen Community Clinic provided 8,075 patient visits in all of their programs. To serve such a large number of patients, DiLillo depends on health care providers, who provide their services for free.

“We use primarily volunteer providers,” she said. “Although I do have a paid physician assistant … I have about 10 providers that are volunteers.”

But the clinic needs more than volunteers to make sure their patients’ needs are met. DiLillo and her team are dependent on various sources of revenue to be able to afford the necessary medication, medical equipment and office supplies.

Donations come from a variety of organizations, including local hospitals and churches, Boys & Girls Clubs as well as community grants provided by the city of Killeen.

“We have a wonderful signature fundraiser every year in August, where we raise money, and we do some other fundraising,” DiLillo said. “We go to organizations and ask them if they would like to adopt the clinic, give a certain amount every month towards the clinic program or adopt a patient.”

Although the clinic gets steady funding and donations, expensive medications stress the clinic’s budget.

“We do provide all of our medications for our patients,” DiLillo said. “That is the number one reason people end up in the hospital with chronic diseases, because they can’t afford their medications.”

This triggers a vicious cycle of medical bills most patients aren’t able to afford.

“These are people that can’t pay their hospital bill and it drives up the hospital bill for all of us,” she said. “The impact of what we do affects the whole community.”

United Way of the Greater Fort Hood Area is an organization that supports the Greater Killeen Community Clinic with a yearly grant, that is paid out quarterly.

Don Ledsworth, campaign coordinator at United Way of the Greater Fort Hood Area, is thankful for the services the Greater Killeen Community Clinic provides.

“That way people that don’t have Medicare or Medicaid insurance, that are low income families most of the time, have somewhere to go to get at least some kind of medical treatment,” he said.

DiLillo hopes for even more support from local business, the community and her own patients. While funds are always welcome, donations can also be in form of copy paper or bath tissue drives.

“Organizations can also … designate to give funding to pay for medications for patients … or provide … paper diabetic strips,” she said.

More importantly, however, DiLillo wants everyone to know that there are places to go if someone is in need for medical care and worried about the bill following the appointment.

“A lot of people know someone who doesn’t have health insurances, it might be someone at your church, it might be a relative of yours but there are a lot of charity clinics around that can help people,” she said. “Sometimes people just don’t know how to ask.”

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