Running a free clinic takes a village.
“We could do very little without our partnerships,” said Marlene DiLillo, executive director of the Greater Killeen Free Clinic, established in 1994.
Today, the clinic serves its patients with a small staff and a small budget, but with a lot of support from volunteers and other agencies who lend a hand.
In total, DiLillo said the clinic has
about 30 partnerships with local and national organizations.
Last week, a representative of one of the clinic’s biggest supporters, AmeriCares, spent a day at the Greater Killeen Free Clinic to see first-hand the work the clinic is doing, and capture the stories of the patients served there and the staff.
In 2015, AmeriCares, the largest nonprofit provider of medical aid to organizations serving low-income, uninsured patients in the U.S., sent 56 shipments of medicines, vaccines and other medical products to the Greater Killeen Free
Clinic, with a retail value totaling more than $3 million.
Many of the donated medications are used to treat the clinic’s 400 chronic care patients, as well as some of its acute care patients. DiLillo said about 1,000 local residents benefit from the medicines each year.
“These are the high-dollar medicines that the patients cannot afford, and that we’re able to give them until we can get them on prescription assistance programs. ... We wouldn’t even be able to provide medications for our patients at all without AmeriCares because of the cost,” DiLillo said.
AmeriCares and the Free Clinic began their partnership in 2005 to care for evacuees from Hurricane Katrina who were coming to Killeen in the wake of the disaster.
“It’s been 11 years and the partnership has grown over the years,” DiLillo said.
In addition to running four of its own free clinics in Connecticut, where the organization is headquartered, AmeriCares also supports locally operated clinics across the country, and aids in international relief efforts.
“The basic goal is to improve the capacity of a clinic like (the Killeen Free Clinic) so they can do the work that they do best: providing comprehensive care, improving health outcomes, reducing the cost to their patients,” said Alexandra Ostasiewicz, a multimedia manager for AmeriCares who visited the Greater Killeen Free Clinic on Tuesday.
Ostasiewicz said the organization’s main goal is to come alongside “existing community clinics who are already doing the work, that are already part of the community ... to get them the resources that they need to do their job better, whether that’s medications they can make sure their patients are able to afford, free medications for their patients, or trainings, resources or other programs.”
During Ostasiewicz’s visit on Tuesday, she was able to speak with patients about the impact the clinic has on their health and quality of life, and said the stories are “powerful.”
“To hear a patient say, ‘I don’t know what I would have done. My condition probably would have worsened … if I didn’t get this medicine’ is pretty powerful. That’s our goal is to kind of capture that impact so that we can help people understand how important the work that’s happening here is,” Ostasiewicz said.
For many of the chronic care patients served by the clinic, it’s the first time they’ve ever received consistent medical care, DiLillo said.
“Patients cry in our office. They’ve never had a medical home before, and this truly is a medical home. That’s really the story we have,” DiLillo said.