Category Archive News

The Free Clinics transforms diabetes program with funding from Pisgah Health Foundation

RN Hannah Parks speaks with a patient at one of TFC’s evening clinics.
Photo by Byron Collins

(Hendersonville, NC)….29 January 2020…. The Free Clinics (TFC) was recently announced one of Pisgah Health Foundation’s inaugural grant recipients, receiving an award of $75,000 for its diabetes program. 

The grant enables TFC to transform its long-standing diabetes program 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 Thursday, February 13, 2020.

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.”

Dr. Steven Crane, TFC’s Volunteer Medical Director and creator of the original Bridges to Health program, says of the changes, “Among the most important insights we learned from 10 years of our Bridges program is that support and advice from others like you who are in the process of making similar changes is a critical component of success.  The group visit model, which has been so successful in helping patients recover from trauma, homelessness, addiction, and hopelessness, is the perfect model for patients who have struggled unsuccessfully to get control of their diabetes.”

Parks 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.”

The Free Clinics is actively seeking new, uninsured patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes or prediabetes to join the group.

For more information about the Diabetes program at The Free Clinics please contact Diabetes Case Manager Hannah Parks, RN at 828.697.8422 or

The Free Clinics is changing lives together, with hope and health. Established in 2001, TFC partners with over 220 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. To learn more, visit

The Pisgah Health Foundation is a public 501(c)(3) charity founded in 2019, by a board of seven caring individuals focused on improving the health, wellness and lives of western North Carolina residents. The organization evolved out of the Transylvania Regional Hospital Foundation. Pisgah Health Foundation’s drive is to improve health and wellness by addressing healthy opportunities in targeted social determinants of health areas including Health, Food Insecurity, Housing, Social Cohesion and Education. Board Members include Cathleen Blanchard; Dave Neumann, Esq.; Jamie Ramsey, MD; Jeremy Purcell; Art Fisher; Jim Tyson, MD; Jim Wright, MD. Lex Green, CPA serves as President. To learn more, please visit


Henderson County inmates to receive mental health, recovery services from The Free Clinics, Vaya Health

By Rebecca Walter

“Vaya Health and The Free Clinics are teaming up to help Henderson County Detention Center inmates get counseling and other support to tackle mental health and addiction challenges. […] Over 70% of adults involved in the criminal justice system have substance use disorders, and up to 34% have serious mental illnesses.”



Grant funds 2 new hires to combat substance misuse in Henderson County

Photo by Patrick Sullivan/Times-News File

By Rebecca Walter
Times-News Staff Writer

“Two peer support outreach specialists will be added to the growing efforts combating substance misuse in Henderson County, thanks to a recent Community Linkages to Care Grant Award.

The primary staff members for the Post-Overdose Response Team will be two peer support outreach specialists. These part-time positions will utilize the data provided by the two local emergency departments as well as county EMS to engage in follow-up within 72 hours for those who have experienced an overdose and/or been resuscitated by Naloxone, according to the proposal summary. The hope is to prevent repeat overdoses. “

Read more at BlueRidgeNow here.


Season of Giving: Nonprofits step in where government help ends

TFC Volunteer Medical Director Dr. Stephen Crane leads a Bridges to Health group medical visit in the Henderson County Detention Center.
Photo by TFC staff, Sept 2019.

“The county jail is responsible for confining and feeding men and women accused of crimes but can do much less than is needed to fix what got the inmates locked up to start with — drug and alcohol addiction. The Free Clinics steps in to provide more than a quarter million dollars’ worth of drugs each year, and is expanding a partnership of after-care to keep inmates on a rehab course when they’re set free.

“[The Free Clinics] fills a need [in the jail] that can have an effect countywide by helping us try to reduce this dependency and reduce the recidivism because of that,” Sheriff Griffin says.

Read more at the Hendersonville Lightning.


Sanctuary Brewing, Saluda Hair Garage offer free haircuts during Help for Hendo event

By Staff Reports

The event, commonly known as H4H, will be held Monday, Nov. 18 from 9 a.m. to noon at Sanctuary Brewing Co., 147 First Ave. E., Hendersonville.

Michael Cohen of Saluda Hair Garage will be offering free haircuts and Sanctuary Brewing Co. will serve a warm meal to those in need.

Goodwill and The Free Clinics will share information about their services and other area resources.



Community the key to solving opioid crisis

Photo by Stephen Kindland for the Times-News

By Stephen Kindland, Times-News Correspondent

Nationally recognized addiction recovery activist Ryan Hampton told about 300 people gathered at Blue Ridge Community College that the nation’s opioid crisis won’t end until comprehensive communitywide efforts are made to address the problem.

Judy Long, executive director of The Free Clinics – which treats low-income patients in its building on Case Street off Upward Road – has 220 volunteers who deliver more than 20 health-related programs through a network of 180 health and community partners, including three hospitals.

“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work as a community to stem the flow of inappropriate prescriptions, and to reduce the impact of the pill form of opioids on our streets,” Long said. “What we’re finding now in the aftermath of that is the extensive presence of fentanyl (a narcotic similar to heroin) in our communities. People who think they’re taking one drug are actually taking fentanyl because it’s mixed in.

“But there’s a lot more awareness of the opioid epidemic and what we need to do as a community, what physicians need to do, what pharmacists need to do, and what lay people need to do,” she added.



Local celebs take “The Plunge” for a worthy cause

Photo by Stephen Kindland

By Stephen Kindland, Times-News correspondent

“Vision Hendersonville County executive director Ruth Birge received a ‘Golden Plunger Award’ for helping to raise money for The Free Clinics — moments before she plunged into Lake Kanuga on a chilly summer day. 

Birge, dressed in an old-timey swim suit with red, horizontal stripes, was one of several local celebrities who took a dive during an inaugural fundraiser — dubbed “The Plunge” — Sunday afternoon at the Kanuga Conference Center. “

Read more at BlueRidgeNow here.


Many take advantage of free clinics in Hendersonville

Photo by WLOS staff

Health care workers performed free screenings Monday at free clinics in Hendersonville. Folks with AdventHealth, Western North Carolina AIDS Project and The Free Clinics did screenings for lipids, body mass index, HIV, hepititis C, blood glucose and blood pressure.

Staff at The Free Clinics encouraged people to bring used bikes to the event and even after the event. They help get them fixed up to donate to community members in need.

Read more at WLOS here.


Survivors, community shine at Celebration of Remarkable Women

Photo by Patrick Sullivan/Times-News

“Kerri has brought a level of professionalism and kindness and just light — there’s no other word for it — to the clients she’s worked with,” said Safelight Associate Executive Director Andi Craven.

Kerri Sanders, TFC’s Phoenix Project Case Manager, was honored with the Shining Light Award at yesterday’s Celebration of Remarkable Women presented by Safelight. The Shining Light Award was created by Safelight to “recognize their partners who help further the mission of creating hope, healing lives and changing the community.”

Read more at BlueRidgeNow HERE.


Times-News Medical Directory 2019: The Free Clinics ensures care for low-income, uninsured local residents

Published by the Hendersonville Times-News

The Free Clinics (TFC) is an innovative, dynamic, volunteer-based community resource 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. We are a community of over 270 dedicated volunteers and over 175 healthcare partners, working together to make our communities healthier places to live, work, learn, and play. Through TFC, our community comes together, 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.

Client Interactions
In 2017-18, TFC provided a total of 34,556 client encounters for 1,960 unduplicated patients.

Acute Care
Medical Clinic

Chronic & Specialty Care
Bridges to Health
Community Case Management
Diabetes Program
Endocrine Clinic
Eye Clinic
Phoenix Project

Community Health
Bikes 4 Life
Community Garden
Diabetes Education
Flu Shot Clinics
Information & Referral Services
Patient Health Advocacy
Wellness Screenings

Mental Health Care
Psychiatric Care Navigation
Psychiatric Clinic

Pharmaceutical Support
Community Pharmacy
Medi-Find Prescription Assistance
Medication Therapy Management

Return on Investment
The value of professional services given was over $9.6M with an annual budget of approximately $1.2M. Our return on investment is $1 = $8.18

National Recognition
TFC was deeply honored that our exciting, collaborative Bridges to Health Program received national recognition for the third year in a row. Bridges works with the most vulnerable, highest need patients. Since July 2010, TFC and our partners have demonstrated a $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 80% of patients with diabetes have a healthy A1c; and social improvements among patients so that 42% of patients are 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.

New Programming
In 2018, TFC continued to expand and develop new and unique partnerships to better serve our vulnerable neighbors, continuing to make Henderson and Polk Counties healthier places to be.

Expansion of Bridges to Health
TFC added two new sites for our award-winning and very successful BTH project—one at the Henderson County Detention Center and one at the Blue Ridge Health 7th Avenue site.

The Phoenix Project
This exciting new collaborative project with Safelight and AdventHealth, as well as other partners like Steps to Hope, creates a model of integrated, trauma-informed care for vulnerable women, especially survivors of interpersonal violence, sexual assault, and/or human trafficking. The Phoenix Project enables survivors’ access to primary care, obstetrics/gynecology, and behavioral health providers of AdventHealth at TFC’s sites, as well as intensive case management by a dedicated RN.

If you are interested in becoming a patient, learning more, making a donation or volunteering, please call 828.697.8422 or visit our website at

Interview with The Free Clinics’s Patient Health Advocate Emily Shock

Q: What are some of the main duties included in your position?

A: The Patient Health Advocacy program seeks to assist The Free Clinics’s patients in addressing the social barriers that affect their health – generally this refers to sufficient food, safe and affordable housing, and transportation.
My job as PHA is to provide resources and counseling to address these needs, as well as to help our patients set goals to lessen these barriers for themselves. I can help our clients get to and from our wonderful area food pantries; I oversee our Bikes 4 Life program, which refurbishes donated bicycles for our patients with transportation struggles; I can assist in navigating the difficulties of finding housing in the area.
I attempt to remove the stumbling blocks that keep our patients from improving their wellness: interpretation for our Spanish-speaking clients, help finding job resources, online applications for SafeLink phones…

What attracted you to the mission of The Free Clinics?

A: Having worked previously in home health for people with disabilities, The Free Clinics’s mission to provide for our neighbors in need drew me in and gave me a new way to help my community. Spend some time with our patients and volunteers, and it’s easy to see – feel – the support, kindness and care that live at The Free Clinics. Great people doing great work!

Q: The Free Clinics serves about 2,000 patients a year. What are some of the impacts of that number?

A: The 2,000 individuals who received services from The Free Clinics represent a portion of our community who were uninsured and without the immediate means to access the healthcare they need.
Many of these people, without the money to be seen in a doctor’s office, would have no choice but to go to the emergency department for treatment. This burdens the ED staff as well as the taxpayer. The Free Clinics can provide urgent care to these individuals (thanks to our amazing volunteer professionals and community partners) and lighten the load for all – our patients can have their health concerns addressed, and the ED can utilize their people and funds for other serious issues.
Our goal is to provide quality care for all, regardless of their ability to pay, and we work hard to support our community’s health. Our patients can receive their medications from our community pharmacy or through our prescription assistance program; they can receive specialty care at free or reduced cost from our community partners; they can take home fresh, healthy food from our community garden and local farm donations. We endeavor to use every dollar as efficiently as possible for those 2,000 residents and beyond.

Q: Do you see the number of patients served increasing over the next five years? Why or why not?

A: I expect the number of patients we serve to increase in the coming years. Western North Carolina is a beautiful place to live, and because of this we have incoming residents adding to the workforce each year – more people competing for jobs, affordable housing, and resources can contribute to the disparity between income and cost of living.
Many of our patients are forced to make hard decisions regarding their money. Even those whose employers offer insurance may not be able to afford it. If a parent has to choose between health insurance for themselves and food for their family, they often choose to pay for the more immediate need – a distressing decision, but this is a reality for many people.
As the gap between means and expenses grows, we may see an increase in uninsured patients – people who will still need healthcare. In the interim, while our community seeks to address our shared obstacles and improve the quality of life of all our members, The Free Clinics will be among the many local organizations helping to ease the burden for our clients.

Q: What are some of the best ways the community can support The Free Clinics?

A: There are so many ways to help! I think it’s important for the community to know that we are providing services beyond traditional healthcare – meaning that we have a variety of needs for support.
Our Bikes 4 Life program accepts new and gently used bicycles to distribute to patients. Our community garden needs various supplies and funds each year. We participate in farm gleans with the Society of St. Andrew to bring fresh produce back to The Free Clinics for our patients to share.
We have a busy pharmacy, front office, and other programs that require manpower – volunteers are the reason we are able to do what we do! Of course we wholeheartedly accept monetary donations, but equally valuable are the time and expertise that our volunteers bring.
In addition to the nurses, doctors, and specialists who donate their time to our clinical programs, we would love to engage all our community members. So to those who garden, bike, build, fix, organize; those who love greeting people, answering phones, and generally loving on others; those who like to campaign, distribute brochures, spread the word…no gift of yours is too small. Many hands make light work!