Category Archive News

Henderson County inmates receive COVID-19 vaccine, sheriff’s office says

The Free Clinics, working with the Henderson County Department of Public Health & Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, was able to vaccinate 55 inmates on Monday, 4/19/2021. For those inmates released prior to their second dose, TFC will be helping to coordinate and ensure they get the right information for where and when to complete the vaccine protocol.

Read the story on FoxCarolina


Free flu shots for the uninsured Dec. 8 at The Free Clinics

The Free Clinics will offer free flu shots to community members without health insurance from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8 at its offices at 841 Case St. in Hendersonville.

The walk-in clinic is scheduled to take place during National Influenza Vaccination Week (Dec. 6-12), an awareness week sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to highlight the importance of yearly flu vaccination.

“As we head into the upcoming months facing the rising cases of COVID, we are still months away from a vaccine for COVID being widely available,” RN Jennifer Tarleton, TFC Clinical Services director, said in a news release.

“Developing both COVID and flu could be an even deadlier risk for many people. The nursing staff is urging the community to protect themselves and get their flu shots.”

The CDC says its more important than ever to get vaccinated for flu, especially those with certain chronic conditions like asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. Getting vaccinated can also reduce the burden of flu illnesses on hospitals so they can focus on patients with COVID-19.

While flu shots have been encouraged nationwide since early fall, it is not too late to get a shot that will be effective for this flu season.

For more information about the Flu Shot Clinic, contact Clinical Services Director Jennifer Tarleton at 828-697-8422 or


Free Clinics adapts with telemedicine, curbside pharmacy

By Andrew Dundas for the Hendersonville Lightning

This year The Free Clinics (TFC) altered the services it provides patients to accommodate the changing needs of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Director Judy Long talked about the challenges arriving from the pandemic when the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits invited her to speak at a virtual news conference in September.

“We have been immediately and directly impacted by COVID,” Long said. In an average year, TFC has around 200 volunteers. “We lost about 85 percent of them.” Many were elderly volunteers who have chosen to stay home since they are at greater risk from the virus.

TFC has not had to furlough or lay off employees thanks to a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, Long said, but they are still in need of support which recognizes the long-term nature of the pandemic. Money from the state “just covers the bare necessities of what we have to do, and it has an expiration date.” TFC could use more staff, Long said, “but, I can’t do that when I know any money I’ve got expires Dec. 31 because that just perpetuates the problem of higher and higher lay-offs.”

Amid a shortage of volunteer help and funding, TFC’s volume of patients has increased by 20 percent, a rise Long attributed to pandemic-related loss of employment and insurance for people in the area.

The issue of behavioral health has surged, too, Long said “It’s triple the number of folks in substance abuse treatment now than we had at the beginning of the year.

“I think you can look at the national data and see the increase in substance use, the increase in overdoses, the increase in suicide, the increase in anxiety and behavioral health challenges that people are living with as we live through this pandemic,” she added.

In response to the unique issues presented by COVID-19, TFC has adjusted aspects of their services to better accommodate patients during a pandemic. The organization has pivoted into treating patients virtually and instituted curbside pickup at their pharmacy.

“The opportunity to have telehealth is completely dependent on wi-fi,” Long said. To help ensure that patients would be able to access virtual care, TFC led a campaign to bring wi-fi accessibility to businesses, churches and city centers.

Though most care has moved toward telehealth, TFC has maintained their Tuesday night walk-in urgent care. “We did keep some live moments so that folks could know that they had a place to go.”

TFC’s priority going forward, Long said, is “staying open and making sure that we are available and accessible to people as much as possible.”

She said people can support The Free Clinics in three different ways. First, by contributing to general awareness that there is a healthcare option for people who are unemployed and uninsured. Second, for those who wish to volunteer, TFC has clinical and administrative positions. Finally, she said donations are welcome to TFC and their nonprofit partners which make up the community’s safety net.


The Free Clinics hosts ribbon-cutting for Columbus office, Oct. 29

The Free Clinics (TFC) will be hosting a ribbon cutting event at its new dedicated office in Polk County on Thursday, October 29, at 4:30pm. Located in Suite I at 60 Walker Street in Columbus, the organization officially moved into the space earlier this year on April 1st, but due to the pandemic was not able to welcome patients immediately. With restrictions gradually easing, it has since been able to open its doors.

The Free Clinics has had a presence in Polk County since 2013, and has been accepting patients from Polk for even longer, but this is its first dedicated, non-shared space. While there are no providers at the site, eligible clients—Polk residents who have no insurance and with incomes less than 200% of the federal poverty level—are able to receive case management, specialty referrals, and prescription assistance from the local office. They are also eligible for all services available at the Henderson location.

“The Free Clinics is incredibly excited to welcome the community to our new Columbus office. We believe that this new TFC office will enable greater visibility of our services and ensure greater access to critical care for our Polk County neighbors in need,“ says TFC executive director Judith Long. “We invite you to visit us—to learn more about our services, refer your neighbors, volunteer to help us care for our neighbors in need.”

Polk Case Manager Jada Scruggs adds, “I am so excited about our new adventure in Polk County and all the people we can help. We can’t wait for you to meet us!”

The ribbon cutting gathering will take place outdoors in the parking lot, rain or shine. Individuals will be able to tour the office in small groups to comply with social distancing guidelines.

The new office is also in need of volunteers to help with greeting clients and answering the phone a few days each week. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm.

For more information about The Free Clinics’s services in Polk County, call the Polk office at 828-722-1200. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, contact Sarah Friedell, Community Relations Coordinator at


The Free Clinics expands footprint in Polk County, seeks volunteers

By Rebecca Walter
Times-News Staff Writer

The Free Clinics has offered services to Polk County residents for over a decade, and recently opened an office in Columbus. The location officially opened April 1 of this year, but was not available for in-person clients immediately due to previous coronavirus stay-at-home restrictions…

Read more at BlueRidgeNow


NC Nonprofits Press Conference

The Free Clinics was recently invited to take part in a virtual press conference by the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits to share our unique challenges during the pandemic (such as patients’ internet access for telehealth services; seeing increasing numbers of patients; volunteer loss; and the rise in behavioral health concerns for our community), and urge federal leaders to take action to ensure nonprofits like TFC can continue helping the members of our community.

You can view the press conference on YouTube here, with remarks from TFC’s executive director Judy Long starting at 33:45.


LGFCU Excellence in Innovation Award 2020

Last month, The Free Clinics and Henderson County were honored with the Local Government Federal Credit Union (LGFCU) Excellence in Innovation award from the NCACC for our Behavioral Health Navigation for Inmates program.

In this brief video, Patient Health Advocate/Navigator Tina LaFoy describes the impact this important new program has on the health and well-being of the individuals in detention and their families.

This infographic charts the development of this award-winning program in the Henderson County Detention Center, and the remarkable results we have achieved so far.


PORT News Coverage

On August 31st, International Overdose Awareness Day, Henderson County and The Free Clinics launched the brand new Post-Overdose Response Team (PORT).
This team, who themselves have lived experience with addiction, will visit our community members who have recently experienced an overdose or been resuscitated by Naloxone, as well as individuals recently released from detention, to offer support and connect them with resources that can help.
To learn more about this important new program and the impact it will have on our neighbors living with substance use disorder:

  • Watch WYFF’s interview here: WYFF
  • Watch WLOS’s coverage here: WLOS
  • Read the full press release here: Mountain Xpress


Henderson County launches post-overdose response team

The Free Clinics announced that a new program is set to launch after a brief delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Late in 2019, Henderson County was awarded a Community Linkages to Care Grant for a Post-Overdose Response Team (PORT). Through this program, Certified Peer Support Specialists will work with county EMS and the two local emergency departments to follow-up within 72 hours with people who have experienced an overdose and/or been resuscitated by naloxone. The specialists will meet with the individual and any support person available to provide information about resources for care. They will also follow up with people who have recently been released from detention that are interested in receiving support when they return to the community.  

The program was in the early development stages in March when it was forced to pause due to the North Carolina quarantine, and it wasn’t feasible to start the program under those conditions. “We can’t wait any longer to get this help to our community members who need it,” explained Jodi Grabowski, Behavioral Health System Coordinator for Henderson County. “We know that the conditions that lead to substance use and overdose — isolation, job loss, and other stressors — are being amplified by the pandemic. We’re confident we can provide this service while meeting COVID-19 safety guidelines.” 

The grant required that the local department of public health contract with a local nonprofit experienced in working with vulnerable populations including people who may be experiencing homelessness, are justice-involved, and dealing with behavioral health challenges and substance misuse, and The Free Clinics (TFC) was identified as the contracted agency for the project. 

The peer specialists will carry and distribute naloxone kits, at no cost by The Free Clinics, as well as other harm reduction information and materials. 

“Peer support is based on mutuality and the understanding that we, too, have been there,” explained Virginia Frechette, Certified Peer Support Specialist for the PORT program.  “As an overdose survivor, understanding that I was not alone, that someone cared enough to create a safe space in meeting me right where I was in all of my shame and anxiety was paramount of my willingness to walk in to treatment and recovery.”  

Her teammate, Lexie Wilkins, concurs. “Meeting our peers right where they are, sharing my lived experience to help others overcome life’s challenges and barriers, and walking alongside them and supporting them… it lets them know that they’re not alone, and they can achieve whatever type of life that they want.” 

The PORT program will launch in the same week as International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event held each year on Aug. 31 to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose. 

In addition to their direct service work, the PORT specialists will gather data about the experiences of the people they serve that will inform efforts toward improving services and resources in Henderson County. The team will work closely with colleagues from TFC, which include two staff based at the detention center: a licensed therapist and a discharge navigator, a position created based on recommendations from the county’s recent task force focused on substance misuse. 

TFC Executive Director Judith Long says of the new program, “The Free Clinics is honored to partner with the county on this exciting and life-changing project. At a community level, we have long recognized the devastation that substance use disorder can have on persons, families, and communities; the pandemic has dramatically heightened the need. This project is more critical now than ever. We look forward to the lives we can touch and save through the multiple partnerships and dynamic engagement of our two new PORT peer support specialists.”

For more information about the Post-Overdose Response Team, please contact Virginia Frechette at 828-845-0441 or Lexie Wilkins at 828-845-0541.

MountainXpress: Henderson County launches post-overdose response team


Henderson County, Free Clinics recognized with award for substance abuse program at jail

Henderson County has received a 2020 Local Government Federal Credit Union Excellence in Innovation Award from the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.

The award-winning program was developed as a result of the Henderson County Board of Commissioner’s 2019 Substance Use Task Force, in partnership with the Henderson County Department of Public Health, the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, and The Free Clinics. It was created to address substance abuse disorder within individuals in the county detention center and implement a plan for treatment during and after their release.

“The Free Clinics is honored… to be part of this successful collaborative project to provide person-centered care for the inmates of our county detention center,” said TFC Executive Director Judith Long.

We are proud and inspired by our Patient Health Advocate Tina LaFoy’s efforts, with the rest of the Detention Center team, to make this program truly impactful to the health and well-being of our neighbors in need tere.

Read more at the Hendersonville Lightning HERE.