VNA Foundation has supported most of the Chicago metropolitan area’s free and charitable clinics for many years. We believe these clinics provide services that are an essential element of the safety net healthcare system, or as a VNA Foundation grantee described the services: “The safety net of the safety net.”
Free and charitable clinics are primarily operated by volunteer, licensed healthcare professionals and other volunteers who perform a variety of clerical and administrative tasks. They rely on donations, non-governmental grants, volunteers and donated goods and services to operate.
To date, healthcare reform has not considered the needs of free and charitable clinics or their ongoing role as the safety net provider, yet we know that there will be people who continue to rely on these clinics for healthcare even after the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. Illinois Medicaid cuts will further increase the need for free and charitable clinics, as struggling families lose access to services that were once reimbursed.
These key upcoming changes to the healthcare system, coupled with VNA Foundation’s longstanding commitment to meeting the needs of the medically underserved by supporting services offered through free and charitable clinics, spurred the VNA Foundation Board of Directors to approve a Special Funding Initiative in support of Illinois Free and Charitable Clinics.
Our first award under this Special Initiative was made in 2010 to fund a planning phase, which allowed development of a strategy to best link and network free and charitable clinics throughout the state. A subsequent award in 2011 then supported infrastructure building for the newly reinstated Illinois Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (IAFCC), and in 2012 VNA supported key association operating costs. For fiscal years 2014 – 2015, VNA Foundation has committed to funding 50% of IAFCC’s foundation revenue needs, contingent on satisfactory progress, while also continuing to support the needs of individual clinics. We believe that building a strong association to work on behalf of free and charitable clinics is the key to creating a healthcare system that serves all people. We also see this as a means to reduce health disparities and focus on prevention.
If you’d like to watch the progress of this Special Initiative, follow us here or on Twitter. You can also visit the Illinois Association of Free and Charitable Clinics website for more information.