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Free health clinic receives super-large federal grant

The Free Clinic of Pierce & St. Croix Counties has been notified it will be awarded a $150,000 grant from the federal Department of Health and Human Services/Health Resources and Services Administration. Mary Conroy-Johnson, head of the free clinic board of directors, expressed her gratitude and said, "The grant allows us to continue to give primary care to area patients who have both low income and no health-care alternative. This really gives us some breathing room."

The size of the federal grant is slightly larger than the free clinic's current yearly operating budget.

Conroy-Johnson said the Tuesday evening free clinic in River Falls generally serves the maximum 25 patients each week and fills more than 100 prescriptions.

With the recession and more people out of work and without health-care insurance, the free clinic has never been busier.

Conroy-Johnson says the federal money will give the free clinic a chance to "address new challenges," such as the rapidly approaching flu season made potentially worse by return of H1N1.

Conroy-Johnson also emphasized that while the $150,000 infusion is a huge boost to the free clinic, private giving has -- and will continue to be -- the foundation.

"We receive donations for all sorts of groups - bake sales, school children who saved their pennies, quilt raffles, service groups that have special events for us, an individual memorial donation to celebrate a 60th birthday or a retirement, and much more," she said. "The financial support has been unbelievable and has humbled us often."

The free clinic is also staffed by over 200 volunteers -including pharmacists, pharmacy techs, greeters, social workers, nurses, doctors, language translators, and medical records and computer experts.