Salem Free Clinics has been a beacon of hope in the local healthcare landscape since its inception in 2005. The mission statement found on their website states that Salem Free Clinics “exists to provide quality, compassionate healthcare at no cost to the uninsured in our community as an expression of Christ’s love” (Salem Free Clinics).
One might wonder, “How does Salem Free Clinics manage to keep the doors open without charging their patients?” Curious to find out more, we interviewed the clinic’s Development Director, Maddie Leutwyler, whose primary role is overseeing all the fundraising efforts for the organization. Maddie presented the clinic’s recipe for success as a combination of fundraising, donations, and the dedication of volunteers.
Fundraising is at the core of their financial stability. As a non-profit, the clinic applies for grants from private foundations who believe in their cause. These generous contributions make up more than half of their revenue. They avoid state or federal grants due to the heavy reporting requirements, which allows them to focus on private support.
Private donors also play a significant role. Many individuals in the community donate regularly to ensure the clinic’s sustainability. These donations, big or small, add up to create a meaningful impact on the clinic’s ability to offer free care.
Volunteers Make the Difference
In addition to the critical financial support, Maddie shared that there are over 200 volunteers who actively participate in the clinic’s operations. This army of dedicated individuals includes nurses, physicians’ assistants, and support workers. Together, they provide a wide range of services making quality healthcare accessible to those in need.
The clinic is staffed by a full-time nurse practitioner who manages the initial appointments and provides on-going family practice type care. However, for situations where more specialized care is required, it’s the pool of volunteer providers, currently numbering over 20, that makes the real difference. These selfless professionals donate their time and expertise to meet the needs of the patients in need of their specialized care. The clinic also has a patient navigator who helps patients navigate the charity applications process with Salem Health if there’s anything that can’t be handled at the clinic and needs to be done at the hospital.
Salem Free Clinics operates on the principle that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. They welcome anyone who doesn’t have insurance, and it’s not just those experiencing homelessness. In fact, a significant portion of their patients are hardworking individuals who can’t afford insurance but make just enough to not qualify for state assistance.
The clinic doesn’t ask many questions. If you need their help, you’re welcome, whether you have insurance or not. They recognize that there are people who sometimes find themselves in unexpected situations, like someone who may be in between jobs, or beginning a new job with a probationary period before their medical benefits begin. Or an employer that provides medical but not dental insurance, prompting them to turn to the clinic for help.
Spreading the Word
Of course, providing free healthcare is just one part of the equation. Salem Free Clinics must also spread the word to those who need to know their services exist. All staff and volunteers promote the clinic at every opportunity. In addition, Maddie and Ruby, who is a patient navigator, work together on being community ambassadors, actively networking and promoting the clinic’s services.
Their marketing strategy includes canvassing restaurants and businesses frequented by individuals who might require their help. Flyers explaining their services are discreetly placed to ensure those in need can find them without judgment or shame.
Online presence is another crucial component of their outreach efforts. Currently a simple online search for “Salem clinic” usually puts them near the top of the list, assisting people looking for healthcare services to discover them easily.
The clinic’s annual events, like their end-of-summer run and fall fundraiser gala, not only serve as fundraisers but also as platforms to raise awareness about their mission. These gatherings bring the community together, fostering a sense of belonging and shared purpose.
Free Sports Physicals Open Door to Healthcare Support
One unique way the clinic reaches its target demographic is through free sports physicals. They collaborated with the Salem Keizer School District, sending the message to coaches and athletic directors about their services. This initiative proved immensely successful, serving over 150 students in just two months.
The students often have parents who could benefit from the clinic’s services, and by providing a free sports physical, it opens the door to further healthcare support.
Bridging the Gaps to Connect Community Services
Salem Free Clinics often acts as a bridge connecting various organizations and individuals in the community. They actively seek collaborations with existing nonprofits and healthcare providers. Instead of duplicating efforts, they believe in working together to maximize the impact.
Maddie spoke passionately about the need for a collective approach to community challenges. Rather than starting new nonprofits to address specific issues, they seek to support those who are already on the ground, striving to make a difference.
For example, if a patient walks in with an issue that can be better addressed by another local organization, they make the referral. This ensures that resources are allocated efficiently, and individuals receive the specialized care they need.
Minimizing Wait Times Increases Accessibility
One of the critical aspects of Salem Free Clinics’ work is accessibility. They understand that waiting for healthcare can be agonizing, so they’ve made it their mission to minimize wait times. On average, patients wait no longer than a week to receive care. In some cases, they can get an appointment in as little as a day or three.
Dental services, which are often neglected and underserved, have a wait time of about a month. While it’s longer than medical services, the clinic recognizes the importance of dental health and works diligently to accommodate as many patients as possible.
Basic Dental Care
Dental care at Salem Free Clinics focuses on the basics. Cleanings and extractions are the primary services provided. They also collaborate with a local program through Chemeketa Community College for cleanings, where students from the program visit the clinic to perform dental cleanings for their patients. It’s an ingenious partnership that benefits both the students and the community.
Mental Health and Counseling Services
Mental health is a significant concern in today’s world, and Salem Free Clinics doesn’t shy away from addressing it. They partner with Corban University’s Graduate Program, offering counseling services for those in need. These services help individuals deal with everyday challenges, providing them with a listening ear and valuable support.
The counseling services may not cover specialized or escalated cases, but they play a crucial role in offering guidance and comfort during difficult times.
Proof is in the Numbers
The infographic below for December 2023, demonstrates the impact that Salem Free Clinics is able to have in just one month’s time.
Community and Care in Action
Salem Free Clinics is more than just a free healthcare provider; it’s a reminder that ordinary people can come together to create something extraordinary. From the tireless volunteers to the generous donors and dedicated staff, Salem Free Clinics embodies the spirit of a community that comes together to provide care for those in need.
Salem Free Clinics is inside the Broadway Commons building located at
1300 Broadway St NE Suite #104
Salem, OR 97301
Phone: (503) 990-8772
Monday – Thursday: 8 AM to 4 PM
Friday: 8 AM – 12 PM