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:
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 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 there.
Read more at the Hendersonville Lightning HERE.
by Kay West
For two years, supporters of The Free Clinics in Hendersonville have gathered annually for Sunset Dining, a dinner on a Sugarloaf Mountain ridgetop to raise funds for the nonprofit, which was founded in 2001 to ensure health care accessibility for uninsured, low-income clients. “The event is held in an open-air pavilion at Cabin Ridge,” says Sarah Friedell, community relations coordinator for TFC. “It is just a stunning venue with gorgeous mountain views and a spectacular sunset.”
And despite current social distancing challenges, Sunset Dining will go on, she assures, if not exactly as originally planned. “Like everything else, including TFC services, we had to pivot to a creative alternative.”
Read more at https://mountainx.com/food/fundraising-dinner-brings-the-experience-to-donors-homes/
Thanks to WTZQ Radio and United Way of Henderson County for featuring TFC during their United Way Moment last week! If you didn’t catch it live, listen here to executive director Judy Long talk about the impact that the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund has made for our work: https://www.wtzq.com/episode/the-free-clinics
We are grateful for our partnerships with institutions like Blue Ridge Community College, who refer learners like Cecilia to volunteer with us. These students help provide critical services to our community, while gaining valuable experience in future careers like pharmacy and medical interpreting. And now, with many students at home taking their classes online, we’re seeing even more offering to help. Thank you, student volunteers! #nvw#NationalVolunteerWeek
Watch BRCC’s interview with TFC volunteer Cecilia here: https://youtu.be/8GYC_RwrcIw
WLOS News 13 speaks with executive director Judith Long about why our patients need a variety of Wi-Fi access points to access vital telehealth services while observing social distancing guidelines.
Watch the clip at WLOS.com
TFC remains open to care for our neighbors in need—freeing up valuable resources at our local emergency departments during this critical time.
We continue to respond to public health guidelines about how to keep our staff, volunteers, and patients safe in the following ways:
• We have moved all regular clinical services, including group visits, to a virtual telehealth format.
• We remain open for in-person service during our weekly Tuesday evening walk-in medical clinic and for service at our pharmacy.
• We remain open as a “safe space” for some of our most vulnerable and scared patients to visit when they have nowhere else to go.
• All visitors who enter the building are given a cloth mask to wear for the duration of their visit.
• Our building is cleaned daily by a medical-grade cleaning service.
• We currently have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) available for all staff and volunteers.
• Eligibility for all current TFC clients has been extended until June 15th, reducing the need for non-urgent visits from current patients, and allowing more time to process new clients, who may have recently become unemployed and/or lost their insurance.
The following steps recently implemented remain in place:
• All visitors to TFC receive temperature checks and screening questions from a nurse before entering the building. If a patient is not admitted entry and needs to pick up prescriptions from the pharmacy, they may wait in their vehicle for curbside delivery.
• All current pharmacy prescriptions are being moved to a 90-day refill (previously 30-day) to limit non-urgent traffic to our building. As a result, our pharmacy hours are currently reduced as follows:
• Administrative staff continue to work from home.
We will continue to update you regarding any changes that take place during this time. Thank you for your support.
(Hendersonville, NC)….30 March 2020…. The Free Clinics urgently seeks community partners to help us care for some of our most vulnerable neighbors. TFC remains open to care for our community, but we are adjusting our services in order to keep patients safe and healthy during the pandemic. One of the changes is that TFC’s group visits (providing medical and behavioral health services for its most vulnerable patients) are moving to a virtual format.
While most TFC clients have smart phones, obtained through special programs for the homeless and economically disadvantaged, they do not have internet access.
TFC asks Hendersonville’s centrally located church and business partners to consider enabling their guest Wi-Fi connections for a specific two hour window once or twice per week so that TFC clients can access their group visits from your parking lots or church/business grounds. The needed days and times are:
If you are willing to assist TFC in helping to care for our most vulnerable neighbors during this very challenging time, we would be extremely grateful. We ask that you please call Executive Director Judith Long at 828.697.8422 or email her at email@example.com as soon as possible so that we can inform our patients of their options and continue their care.
TFC also seeks the community’s support. These are challenging times for all of us, especially our neighbors without homes, those living with behavioral health challenges, those who are surviving interpersonal violence. As TFC works to care for our vulnerable neighbors, we are in need of cotton cloth masks, as well as financial support. To make a donation, visit thefreeclinics.org/donate or call 828.697.8422. To provide cloth masks, please contact Cathy Montgomery, Clinical Services Director at the same number. Checks or masks can also be delivered to The Free Clinics at 841 Case Street, Hendersonville NC, 28792. Please help us care for our community by keeping our most vulnerable neighbors safe and healthy.
The Free Clinics is changing lives together, with hope and health. Established in 2001, TFC partners with over 230 volunteers and 179 community health care providers to ensure quality, accessible care for over 2,000 of our uninsured, low-income neighbors in Henderson and Polk Counties. TFC programming employs a person-centered model to address acute and chronic conditions, mental and behavioral health, medication access, and other barriers to health for the most vulnerable among us.
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The Free Clinics (TFC) is an innovative, dynamic, volunteer-based community organization that ensures access to healthcare for low-income, uninsured residents of Henderson and Polk Counties. We work collaboratively with the local community health centers, health departments, social service agencies, and hospitals to augment and enhance the healthcare system and provide vital services that are not duplicated. TFC is a community of over 220 dedicated volunteers and 179 health and community partners, working together to make our counties healthier places to live, work, learn, and play. Through TFC, our community unites in helping our most vulnerable neighbors address their health concerns–with everything from access to a doctor’s visit, to medications, to lack of healthy food or transportation challenges–changing lives together, with hope and health.
In 2018-19, TFC provided a total of 40,399 client encounters for 2,093 unduplicated patients.
Henderson County Detention Center Clinical Services
Psychiatric Care Navigation
Chronic & Specialty Care
Bridges to Health
Bridges to Health – Diabetes
Community Case Management
Bikes 4 Life
Flu Shot Clinics
Information & Referral Services
Patient Health Advocacy – Community
Patient Health Advocacy – Detention
Medi-Find Prescription Assistance
Medication Therapy Management
Return on Investment
The value of professional services given was over $9.7M with an annual budget of approximately $1.2M. Our return on investment is $1 = $7.65.
10 Years of Bridges to Health
Bridges to Health began as an experiment to work with the most vulnerable, highest need patients, providing a “one-stop-shop” group medical visit in hopes of reducing unnecessary emergency department visits. Since July 2010, TFC and our partners have demonstrated more than $6M savings to the local hospital and a 52% reduction in inappropriate hospital utilization; medical improvements so that 61% of patients have improvements in their depression score, 63% of patients with hypertension have a healthy blood pressure, and 81% of patients with diabetes have a healthy A1c; and social improvements among patients so that 42% of patients became employed, 64% experience an improvement in their ability to make decisions and function well in day-to-day life, and 94% are housed rather than homeless.
In 2016, Bridges was a top three finalist for the Kate B. Reynolds Innovations in Rural Health Award. In 2017, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recognized Dr. Steven Crane as the Health Equity Leader of the Year for his vision and leadership with the Bridges program. In 2018, Dr. Crane presented the Bridges model at the American Public Health Association meeting in San Diego and TFC was featured on the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Blog. Last year, in 2019, Dr. Crane was invited to present the Bridges model to the National Governors Association Center for Excellence in Health.
In 2019, TFC continued to grow and develop new and unique partnerships to better serve our vulnerable neighbors, continuing to make Henderson and Polk Counties healthier places to be.
TFC in the Jail
After expanding our award-winning Bridges to Health program to the Henderson County Detention Center (HCDC) last year, early results show that 53% of those patients have nested with care at TFC upon their release. TFC has also added a Patient Health Advocate position based at the jail, who will provide recently released persons with support and direct connections to medical, behavioral health, and social services. TFC has also assumed the contract for the HCDC licensed behavioral health clinician, who conducts clinical mental health and substance abuse assessments and provides case management and therapy services to inmates.
Post-Overdose Response Team
In collaboration with the Henderson County Department of Public Health, TFC is creating an innovative new post-overdose response team to engage in outreach and recovery support to community members who have recently experienced an overdose and/or been resuscitated by Naloxone, in an effort to prevent repeated overdose.
If you are interested in becoming a patient at TFC, learning more, making a donation or volunteering, please call 828.697.8422 or visit our website at www.thefreeclinics.org.
The Free Clinics now providing revamped diabetes program
This year, The Free Clinics (TFC) launches a new, group visit version of its diabetes program, thanks to funding from Pisgah Health Foundation.
TFC’s long-standing diabetes program is being transformed into a comprehensive drop-in group visit model, based on its award-winning Bridges to Health program, to serve Henderson and Polk Counties’ most vulnerable persons with diabetes. The model allows TFC to serve as the patient’s primary care provider, with multiple health specialists present at each diabetes group visit, including a medical provider, behavioral health specialist, nurse, occupational therapist, health educator, patient health advocate, and clinical pharmacist.
The new program will debut on February 13, 2020. TFC is actively seeking new, uninsured patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes or prediabetes to join the group, which will meet weekly on Thursday afternoons.
Hannah Parks, TFC’s Diabetes Nurse Case Manager, says, “I think the program meets a real need that the community has to integrate diabetes care with a really knowledgeable team. The extra piece that we offer is the compassion, and the benefit of the group visit model and that peer support.”
She adds, “I have hope about how the group dynamic will work with managing a chronic illness that is often very isolating. With diabetes you’re potentially checking your blood sugar at every meal, it messes up everything that you enjoy about food and interferes with your family and life, so I’m curious to see how being in a group setting works—what impact it has when patients can see, You’re not alone, you have support.”
For more information about the Diabetes program at The Free Clinics please contact Diabetes Case Manager Hannah Parks, RN at 828.697.8422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.