In the late 1990’s our founders, Drs. Russell Sacco and Irwin Perlmutter, began discussing the need for a free clinic to care for those without access to care in Henderson County, NC. For several years, they networked with their peers, making the case, garnering support, and recruiting leadership who became the first steering committee. Drs. Sacco and Perlmutter grew familiar with the free clinic movement in North Carolina and began to create a model for a local free clinic that would use volunteers to provide care to those in need. The steering committee held public meetings to learn more about the needs in Henderson County and found that there were a significant number of adults who were not receiving medical care. Early clinic leaders also found that there was a large group of healthcare professionals who were willing to give their time and talent to provide care.
On 13 December 2001, TFC opened its doors and saw its first patients at a walk-in Medical Clinic. TFC saw seven patients that night and grew quickly through word of mouth. The clinic initially met – and still meets – from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday evenings.
TFC’s Clinics and Clinical Services
Because the walk-in medical clinic saw many patients whose needs were not being met through other services, it quickly became clear that TFC needed to help “bridge those gaps”. TFC added clinics specifically designed to bridge identified gaps in service.
- 2002: Diabetic Life Management Clinic to assist low-income diabetic patients in understanding and effectively managing their disease.
- 2002: Dental Extraction Clinic at Stokes Dental Center of Blue Ridge Community Health Services because resources for low-income adult dental patients were and continue to be limited.
- 2003: Orthopedic Clinic to work with patients who need more specialized orthopedic care. Our orthopedic clinic operated on-site for 11 years; currently orthopedic appointments are handled through our Community Case Management Program and occur in the orthopedist’s office.
- 2004: Eye Clinic, initially to provide screenings for patients of the diabetic clinic and later to accept referrals for patients at risk for disease of the eye.
- 2005: Community Case Management (Project Access) Program. TFC provides support to the local healthcare community by linking low-income, uninsured patients to diagnostic services, specialty care, surgery, and/or ancillary care through a network of over 140 healthcare partners. TFC is the case management resource for Henderson and Polk Counties.
- 2006: Psychiatric Clinic in direct response to the closure of Henderson County’s former safety net mental health provider; the clinic provides psychiatric appointments and medication management to those with mental health needs.
- 2007: Pulmonary Clinic to work with patients who needed more specialized pulmonary care. Our Pulmonary Clinic operated on-site for three years; currently pulmonary appointments are handled through our Community Case Management Program and occur in the pulmonologists’ office.
- 2010: Endocrinology Clinic. With the support of a dedicated endocrinologist, the clinic works with patients with uncontrolled diabetes, thyroid conditions, and other endocrine disease and until 2015 was the only resource for endocrinology services in Henderson County.
- 2010: Bridges to Health, which provides a medical home for the most complex, most vulnerable patients, including intensive case management and team-based, drop-in, group medical visits.
- 2010: Counseling, which provides short-term (4-6 sessions) therapeutic intervention.
- 2010: Psychiatric Care Navigation, which assists patients and families on navigating the complex mental system and finding appropriate care.
- 2010: Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) Clinic with the support of a physiatrist to work with patients who have chronic back and/or neck pain, using a non-narcotic, non-invasive approach; for seven years our PMR clinic operated on-site; currently PMR appointments are handled through our Community Case Management Program and occur in doctor’s offices.
- 2011: Polk County expansion to enable access to high quality, affordable, accessible care to residents of Polk County.
- 2014: Polk County Case Management. Thanks to receipt of a federal HRSA grant, TFC greatly expands care for Polk County with a dedicated case manager and medication delivery locally, in partnership with St. Luke’s Hospital.
- 2015: The first Women’s Wellness Clinic is held in June and with the support of a dedicated gynecologist, the clinic provides a full woman’s exam to females in need of services.
TFC’s Pharmacy Programs
In 2008, with TFC’s relocation to the new facility at 841 Case Street, TFC adopted two pharmacy programs from other organizations and integrated them with other clinical programming, to provide better integrated care and a “one-stop shop” for healthcare.
- 2005: Community Pharmacy, which provides medications to address the major chronic diseases in Henderson and Polk Counties: diabetes, cardiac disease, pulmonary disease, and mental health.
- 2005: Medi-Find Prescription Assistance Program, which assists patients in obtaining medications free from pharmaceutical companies.
- 2014: Medication Therapy Management in partnership with Wingate School of Pharmacy, to review and teach effective medication management to TFC’s complex patients.
- 2015: Naloxone Program. In partnership with Hope RX, TFC offers life-saving medication to counteract opioid over-dose.
TFC’s Screening and Prevention
To better care for the vulnerable persons in our community, TFC expanded the wellness care offered:
- 2011: Smoking Cessation workshops in partnerships with the Henderson County Department of Public Health to provide group support and medication assistance to those persons who are ready to be free from tobacco.
- 2013: Flu Shot Clinics in partnership with Walgreens, TFC offers multiple opportunities for free flu shots at multiple locations throughout the fall/winter.
- 2013: Wellness Screening in collaboration with WNC AIDS Project and Park Ridge Health Wellness on Wheels, TFC offers free lab-work and other screenings at least quarterly. Screenings include blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index, Hepatitis C, and HIV testing.
TFC’s Community Health Programs
Nationally, our understanding about what affects our health is evolving. We are talking about health more broadly, coming to understand that health starts–long before illness–in our homes, schools, and jobs. Scientists have found that the conditions in which we live and work have an enormous impact on our health, long before we ever see a doctor. In fact, they determine up to 80% of our health.
- 2015: TFC launches Patient Health Advocacy program to address barriers to health and nurture patient engagement in their own health.
- 2016: TFC launches Community Garden with patient volunteers to address food insecurity, promote healthy foods, and encourage patient engagement.
- 2016: Bikes for Life allows TFC with the help of volunteers, area bike clubs, and local bike shops to refurbish collected bikes and donate them to our neighbors in need to assist them in addressing transportation issues.
- 2017: HealthWays is an innovative, exciting, international program that has changed lives and health in communities in Kentucky and Tennessee as well as internationally. HealthWays employs a “viral health” model, building on our existing relationships and support systems. Trained facilitators encourage and support teams of friends, family, coworkers, or neighbors to learn easy and practical ways to eat healthier, be more active, and take control of their health.