Free Clinics Close Their Doors

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By Brandon Merano
By Randy Livingston

WSIL -- Two medical clinics that have provided free healthcare in Southern Illinois for more than a decade are now closing.

The Hands of Hope Clinic in Marion and Bridge Clinic in Harrisburg are shutting their doors.

Dr. Larry Jones has strong ties with both free clinics.

"I volunteered at the Hands of Hope just as a physician over there. Then i came to Harrisburg where I created a similar clinic for people in Saline and Gallatin County," said Jones.

The launch of the Affordable Care Act remains controversial with many lawmakers still calling for its repeal. But, Jones says this is a positive impact for the healthcare system.

"I'm sort of sad that it's closing, but I do believe that it represents a modest success of the Affordable Care Act, at least in our area," said Jones.

Clinic staff conducted a survey that showed many people who could not afford healthcare before now qualify for Medicaid or some sort of insurance. Hands of Hope Executive Director Mindy Hammond says there is still a need that other groups can pick up.

"We figured that the money and everything that the city and everyone else has given us should go to other charities that have the patient load to support those donations in the right way," said Hammond.

Bridge Clinic Office Manager Joan Harper says she feels for the small percentage of people who still don't qualify for Obamacare.

"You get very close to them and they get upset and I get upset, because there is going to be a lot of them without any medical help at all," expressed Harper.

While both clinics are seeing their last patients this months -- doors will be open to pick up patient records at both facilities until June 30.

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