Clinic to help the uninsured, refugees seek support to expand

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hope Clinic, which provides free healthcare to people who are uninsured in the Austin area, says it needs to scale up its operations as more and more people seek their services.

The clinic, which has been in existence since 2009 and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit since 2012, provides a variety of services to anyone in need, but it especially focuses on helping refugees resettling in Austin. 

Sunday at the 20th anniversary celebration for the Gateway Church of Austin, all the proceeds from the event went to Hope Clinic to help it expand. 

“We know that they’re in a place where they’re kind of overwhelmed, it’s a volunteer clinic,” explained John Burke, the founding pastor of Gateway Church. “So we’re trying to raise some money to help them take it to the next level as well.”

“Our numbers are growing and we’re getting to the part where we need to get slightly bigger space because we’re pretty cramped where we’re at,” said Gloria McPherson, the executive director of the clinic. She explained that the clinic also will need more paid staff and more hours to meet the needs of the people who are coming in.

The medical staff at the clinic are doctors, nurses and dentists who volunteer their time. 

McPherson explained that during the clinic’s first year, they saw around 200 people. This past year they saw around 540 people, and already in 2018, they’ve seen 500. McPherson believes this growth came from the clinic moving to a permanent location and more people learning about where it is.  

At the clinic, patients can receive care for more minor conditions like headaches as well as chronic conditions like diabetes. Patients can get free prescription and over-the-counter medication at the clinic as well as X-rays, dental care, vision exams, physical therapy and blood work. 

She explained that when refugees arrive in Austin on a refugee visa, they usually have six to eight months worth of support from the federal government. She added that the amount of time is rarely enough for people resettling in the U.S. to learn a new language or find the skills to get a new job. 

But on top of that, refugee service providers are also feeling the impacts of decisions by President Trumps administration to decrease the numbers of refugees allowed to enter the U.S. 

“The funding that’s coming through the state to support the resettlement has decreased because of the fact that they are decreasing the number of refugees that are allowed into the country,” McPherson said. “It makes it even harder.”

Just last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that President Trump’s administration will decrease the number of refugees allowed into the United States next year to 30,000. Currently, the maximum number of refugees allowed is 45,000. At the end of President Obama’s administration, the ceiling for refugee admissions was capped at 110,000. 

According to the State Department, in recent years the U.S. has seen a “substantial increase” in the number of people seeking asylum, a factor it believes contributes to the growing backlog of refugee cases waiting to be decided. 

“That’s the kind of thing I wish more people would be aware of, the refugees living here are just struggling all the time, especially with healthcare,” McPherson said. 

Hope Clinic is located at 810 Cameron Road, Suite 101 in Austin. 

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