Ashli Sims, News On 6
BARTLESVILLE, Oklahoma -- The vicious cycle of a lagging economy is threatening a Green Country clinic.
With unemployment still high, more people are in need of free healthcare. But the slow economy means donations to keep the clinic afloat have also slowed down.
The Green Country Free Clinic is seeing one to three new patients every week. And for the second year in a row, it's operating in the red.
Clinic patient Wayne Thomas has come a long way in the last four months.
"I was a living health issue. I had a lot of problems when I rolled up," Thomas said.
Thomas was living in a Bartlesville shelter, was out of work, and had stroke-level high blood pressure.
"It was way out of control. Smoking cigarettes was part of it. So was drinking and some lifestyle changes," he said.
The volunteers at Green Country Free Clinic offered Thomas the help he needed, everything from his blood pressure meds to a smoking cessation program - free of charge.
But now it's the clinic that's in need.
"Whenever the economy is bad, the need goes up. Of course when the need goes up our expenses go up. And the donated dollars are down. So we've got a dilemma," said Clinic Director Cindy Pribil.
After 20 years of serving the community, the clinic is running nearly $50,000 in the red. The organization relies strictly on donations. If things don't pick up soon, they'll be forced to cut back services next year.
"We're trying very hard not to do that. We don't want to do that. We don't want to at the time of the greatest need have to cut services," Pribil said.
Wayne Thomas is now back on his feet and working. And he says Green Country Free Clinic helped him do something he never thought he could - kick the habit. He has had no cigarettes for 79 days, and his blood pressure is on its way to being under control.
"They support you. You can call them and ask them questions. And when they find out good things are happening to you, they're just the best cheerleaders. I just love all these gals down here," Thomas said.
The folks at Green Country Free Clinic say by serving chronic patients like Wayne Thomas they're keeping those patients out of local emergency rooms, which saves all taxpayers money.