HUNTERSVILLE – If it wasn’t for Lake Norman Community Health Clinic, 54-year-old Sylvia McCorkle may have never considered a mammogram exam.
The Huntersville resident is just one of the 1,500 uninsured patients who regularly visit the clinic. LNCHC serves impoverished communities within the northern Mecklenburg and southern Iredell counties.
“We are all human. We all need to get medical care, regardless of age, color and financial situation,” McCorkle said. “This place has helped me tremendously.”
LNCHC is a primary care clinic that operates like any other medical office, but has specialty services from an orthopedist, gynecologist, physical therapist and endocrinologist who come to the clinic once a month. Novant Health, which refers its patients to LNCHC, provides the clinic with mammogram examinations twice a year.
“Women need to be aware of mammograms to detect breast cancer in its early stages,” McCorkle said. “LNCHC helped me get not only my first mammogram, but also see a dentist at Ada Jenkins Center and treat my sleep apnea.”
The clinic began with Dr. David Cook, LNCHC medical director, when he spent a few years assisting four to five uninsured patients in the back of a Hispanic grocery store.
In 2001, LNCHC came to the Huntersville area and moved to its current location six years later. Since then, 50,000 appointments have been made for more than 7,000 people.
Because the Affordable Care Act provides healthcare access for those between the 100 percent and 400 percent federal poverty level, people who fall below the 100 percent level are ineligible to shop in the health insurance exchange. Therefore, these people rely on free clinics and hospitals for checkups and treatments.
“About 60 percent of the people we serve fall below the 100 percent federal poverty level,” said April Cook, executive director of LNCHC. “The Affordable Care Act leaves a big gap of people who do not have access. It does not take care of everyone.”
To ensure eligibility of patients, clinic staff requires documents such as W-2 tax forms, proof of sources of income, alimony and food stamps.
Hundreds of volunteers and seven staff members provide orthopedic treatments, chiropractic services, physical therapy, specialty referrals, diabetes counseling, nutrition classes, flu shot services and Spanish interpreters.
These medical services are free but to cover maintenance costs, the clinic receives outside grants and donations. Patients are also asked to donate $15 each visit. But regardless of whether they donate, all patients are given care.
“Our medical care is free because we believe no one should be denied healthcare,” April Cook said. “But, 98 percent of our patients do donate.”
In addition to Novant Health, other partners of the clinic include Carolinas HealthCare System, Lab Corp, MedAssist and Soloman House.
“The relationships we have made with hospital systems, specialists, churches and civic organizations all contributed to the success of our clinic,” April Cook said.
She believes chronic disease drives up costs. She expects patients to come to the clinic at least four times a year to better their long-term health. To do this, the clinic brings in educators and guest speakers to teach patients how to control health through diet and exercise.
“We are here to make a difference. Just because you are poor does not mean you aren’t entitled to healthcare,” April Cook said. “This is not a Band-Aid approach to medicine. We are a comprehensive medical care facility that changes lives and reduces healthcare costs.”
Want to go? Lake Norman Community Health Clinic is located at 14230 Hunters Road, Huntersville. Screenings are held 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Mondays, 5-8 p.m. Wednesdays or by appointment. Details: http://lnchc.org/ or 704-947-6858.