Eastern NC charitable clinics receiving $3.1 million for underserved populations
WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — More than $3.1 million in COVID-relief funding is beginning to flow to 19 free and charitable clinics in Eastern North Carolina that provide primary care, behavioral, dental and other health care services to uninsured and underserved residents.
The money is part of a $15 million appropriation approved by the N.C. General Assembly late last year to help member clinics of the North Carolina Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NCAFCC) meet increasing needs, higher costs and other challenges posed by the pandemic.
Since 2020, the association has secured more than $27 million in COVID relief for its 72 member clinics across the state, providing a critical lifeline for clinics continuing to serve patients while squeezed by a decline in volunteers and fundraising opportunities.
“For North Carolina’s uninsured working poor, this funding has meant the difference between access to high-quality health care and no health care at all,” association CEO April Cook said. “We are grateful to our elected representatives – and to our donors who continue to support us – for recognizing the vital role free and charitable clinics play in our state’s healthcare safety net.”
Clinics saw a surge of new patients at the height of the pandemic as people lost jobs and health insurance. The loss of volunteers forced clinics to hire paid staff to keep their doors open, significantly increasing operating costs.
Clinics have played a key role in North Carolina’s pandemic response, providing ongoing care for more than 80,000 patients, many of whom are managing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, which make them more vulnerable to contract or die from COVID-19.
The clinics also provided COVID-19 testing and treatment and delivered more than 35,000 vaccines.
Allocations vary from clinic to clinic based on the number of patients they serve and the scope of services they provide, including COVID-related services such as treatment, testing and vaccinations.