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Johnstown Free Medical Clinic, now Highlands Health, has a new name and a new mission

March 22, 2018 GMT

In the 20 years since it first opened its doors, the Johnstown Free Medical Clinic has adapted its services to meet the challenges of providing medical care to uninsured residents of Cambria and Somerset counties.

On Wednesday the clinic officially adopted a new name — Highlands Health: Laurel Highlands Free and Charitable Medical Clinic — and a revised mission statement that more accurately describes its expanding role within the region. Kayla Carr, communications director, also announced a series of events scheduled for this summer and fall to celebrate the clinic’s 20th anniversary: an anniversary dinner on June 19, the annual summer benefit concert on Aug. 25 and a golf outing fundraiser on Sept. 24.

“The board chose this name (Highlands Health) because it is reflective of the geographic region that we serve and plan to expand,” Carr said. “The clinic’s new mission is ‘to provide free and charitable medical, pharmaceutical and wellness services to the low-income uninsured and underinsured of the Laurel Highlands.’”

The addition of the words “charitable” and “underinsured” represent another step forward in the expansion of services the clinic provides, Executive Director Rosalie Danchanko said.

“We’ve broadened our mission,” she said. “We were always a free clinic, now we’re free ‘and charitable.’ Charitable reflects the opportunity to accept payment, and then we added the word ‘underinsured.’ As we reach out to the underinsured, we will be able to charge third-party insurances. To be able to do that, we are completing an application to become a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike. Once we are certified as an FQHC, then we will be able to bill those insurances.” The clinic’s goal, Danchanko said, is to help uninsured and underinsured people in Cambria and Somerset counties get the medical help they need to get and stay healthy and productive.

“The goal is, you come in, we serve you, we help you get insurance, we help you find a PCP (primary care physician), a doctor,” she said. “That’s the goal, we want them to have a PCP — but it takes three months sometimes (to do that), so in the meantime, if you have insurance but you don’t have a doctor, we’re not going to cut you off. We still need to know you’re going to get your medication.”

The Somerset clinic — located on the third floor of Somerset Hospital — served over 150 patients in 2017, but many more could be helped, Danchanko said. “We’re going to be aggressively doing outreach and marketing in Somerset County in order to bring more people in for medical care,” she said. “So far, what we have seen in Somerset County is a large Hispanic population, an immigrant population, so we have some extra challenges to overcome in Somerset County.

“The other thing is that in the southernmost area of the county, they lack any resources. We’re trying to work with local funders to see if either we can establish a mobile vehicle to bring (people) into our clinic, or we can get additional funding to go to them. It’s real apparent that we need to go to where the need is the greatest.”

And even after 20 years of serving the community, there are people who still don’t know the clinic exists to help them. In 2017 the Johnstown clinic served 1,000 patients, or just 10 percent of the 10,000 residents of Cambria County who are uninsured, Danchanko said.

“Call, because we’re going to have you come into the clinic and do an intake (to determine the patient’s medical needs),” she said.

“The first time you come in, you’re going to see a doctor, and then we’re going to help you if you don’t have a doctor. So it’s something they should check out and explore. We’re here to help, and we care about them. “We want people to come in here and feel comfortable. This isn’t a handout; this is an opportunity to get healthy.”