LACKEY — The Lackey Clinic started with Devine inspiration. The late Dr. Jim Shaw and his wife Cooka felt a pull to serve the underserved within York County and the surrounding municipalities.
In those first years, business was by all accounts, slow.
“They would invite patients by word of mouth basically,” said former Lackey Medical Director Dr. Ralph Robertson of the clinic’s early days. “A patient or two would come, maybe four. Then the next week no one would show up and they would just sit and twiddle their thumbs.”
After much thought and prayer, the Shaws persisted and over time they saw an uptick in both patients and volunteers from week to week.
Eventually York County gave permission for the clinic to use the Charles Brown Community Center in Charles Brown Park. While that move gave the team much needed space, the Shaws saw that the needs of the poor were growing. As a result they began looking for ways to open a fully funded permanent facility.
In 2003 the Shaws and their volunteers were able to open the Lackey Free Clinic at its current location on Old Williamsburg Road.
Since then Lackey Clinic has been able to grow not only the square footage of the facility, but also the number of services it offers.
Currently it is the primary care and dental provider for 1,655 low-income and uninsured Virginians.
Within the first two years of opening the facility, the clinic added a phramacy, dental clinic, and on of Virginia’s first free chronic-care clinics for patients with diabetes, hypertension, asthma and other ongoing conditions.
“Heal the body, nourish the spirit, strengthen the community,” said Director of Volunteer and Operations Kim Spencer. “Obviously if we can take care of the individuals in our community who need healthcare, they can in turn become a better citizen, better parent, better everything.”
With a little over thirty employees, half of them being part-time, dozens and dozens of volunteers, the clinic is able to offer quality and continuing health care to people who would not be able to afford it otherwise.
With loyal band of volunteer doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and dental assistants, patients are able to be treated and receive most medications on site.
For those who have a condition that cannot be treated at the clinic, Lackey has charity care agreements with Riverside Health System, Sentara Healthcare and Bon Secours Health System, which allows the patient to continue to be treated for free.
Always looking for ways to expand their service, Lackey Clinic had started a telehealth program before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the country to lockdown.
They started with online applications. In the past potential clinic patients would have to come in-person to see if they qualified for care. In hopes of saving time and effort for people either cannot take time off work or get childcare, Director of Eligibility Amber Martens and her team of volunteers began screening patients online.
“We are just trying to make it easy as possible and quick as possible for people to get access to care,” Martens said. “That is why we started the virtual urgent care. Anyone can use that, whether they have insurance or not. It is just a quick way to see a doctor for an urgent medical or dental need and it works for people across the state of Virginia.”
Any adult in Virginia who makes less than $41,000 a year is able to get virtual urgent care from the clinic.
Martens said that during those appointments the doctors will often work with the patient on finding suitable follow on care.
“They ask ‘who is your doctor or who is your dentist,'” Martens said. “If they have one then they will be referred to their primary care for a follow up, but if not they say ‘you can come to us if you don’t have dental insurance, or you can come to us if you don’t have any insurance.”
The program has proven so successful that on April 20, the clinic announced that it had been awarded a grant from Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health worth than $105,689 to enhance its virtual care program.
“We are grateful for the support of the grant to reach our shared goal of caring for the medically underserved patients in Virginia,” said clinic CEO Larry Trumbore.“ Our Virtual Care program is designed to provide easier access leading to better health outcomes for more people.”
The grant money will be used to staff the program with, among other positions, a part-time community health worker. The health worker will connect patients with community partners to address social determinants of health needs such as housing, transportation and healthy food.
Going forward, the clinic and its staff and volunteers are looking to expand on the their success in the telehealth fields outside of the clinic and is possible outside of Virginia.
“We think virtual urgent care, this model we’re setting up, will work for this region, this state and even nationally,” Trumbore said. “It’s virtual. Why can’t every state in the country have a bunch of volunteer doctors and offer volunteer service free to these people.”
For more information on the Lackey Clinic, go to their website.