STEUBENVILLE - Life was good for 47-year-old Kimberly Fletcher.
"I had a good job with health insurance. I am a mother, a wife and an ordained minister at the Tower of Power of Church. And then I lost my job because of a knee injury and started losing weight. I didn't go to the doctor because I didn't have insurance and my husband didn't have insurance at his job. I was totally unaware of the Fourth Street Health Center. And I didn't think there was anything available for me because I didn't have insurance," related Fletcher.
"I was at church and started sweating. The people told me they believed in faith but also believed in common sense and urged me to go to the hospital emergency room. I just thought I had stress on top of stress. I was admitted for about a week and was prescribed a very expensive medicine. That's when a nurse came in and suggested I visit the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center. She told me I could get help there," continued Fletcher.
TELLING HER STORY — Kimberly Fletcher of Steubenville describes her brush with death and how the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center helped save her life. Fletcher’s story also will be told during the eighth-annual health center gala set for April 27 at St. Florian Hall in Wintersville. Tickets for the gala are available by calling the heath center at (740) 283-2856. -- Dave Gossett
"I thought I was on my own because I didn't have any health insurance. But I met Dr. Mary Mihalyo at the health center and she told me she would find a way to help me. She even gave me her cell phone number. What doctor does that? She told me not to worry," Fletcher said.
Fletcher joined the approximately 2,000 active patients currently seen at the health center.
"Kim had a lot of issues including her weight loss. We were able to obtain Ensure to help Kim gain some of her weight back and we made an appointment for her with Dr. Vorica Crissan of Weirton. She was able to determine she had hyper thyroid issues," added Fourth Street Executive Director Ann Quillen.
"The health center helped me pay for the appointment and to get the medications I needed. It is all about faith and needing hope for your safety net. They kept me alive and helped me keep going," Fletcher said.
"It astounds me the Fourth Street Health Center is in our community. People need to understand the growing need in our community. We tend to think the health center is here only for the homeless or the indigent or the impoverished. But there are many people with needs. We are the working people who either don't have insurance or can't afford health insurance. I never knew the resources of the health center were available, and I am afraid there are others who don't know. And there are also people who don't know the heath center needs financial support so they can provide health care to those in need," according to Fletcher.
"I still come to the clinic every six month because I am on a blood thinner and they check my blood. I will soon be seeing my cardiologist and hope I will only need the blood tests annually. But I also want to stay involved with the clinic and volunteer here when I can," remarked Fletcher.
"I now have a new job and I am healthy thanks to the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center. The community needs to know about this wonderful place and needs to know there is a need for free health clinics. This is a safe place. There is no judgment here," stated Fletcher.
The Steubenville woman is one reason Quillen and her staff at the health center have persevered this year after the snow and heavy rains created a flood in the Fourth Street Health Center offices.
"We suffered a significant loss when the office ceiling collapsed and the water started pouring in on Feb. 18. We would need major repairs and possibly a new roof to stay at that location. We needed a solution to our problem and Trinity Medical Center immediately offered office space to us. It was a wonderful solution that allowed us to move to the Ross Park Professional Building at Trinity East on Feb. 27," Quillen said.
"We will moved into Suite 202 of the Ross Park Professional Building and continued offering patient care," added Quillen.
"It is a big step for us. We have been a stand-alone facility since 2006, but now we are collaborating with Trinity to continue our work with the uninsured. I hope the public will understand we are still a free clinic that is very dependent on the volunteer help of our medical professionals and the financial support of the community. We have been looking for a new home for some time and will continue to look for our permanent home," said Quillen.
"The move actually went better than I anticipated. Our patients have made the transition to our new location. We went from a 1,200-foot office space to double that size. And while we are very appreciative to Trinity for helping us, we still want to secure a permanent location in the downtown area. We would like a larger space so we can offer more services in collaboration with the Urban Mission Ministries and other agencies," stated Quillen.
"It will be nice to eventually have everything under one roof, including medical care, medication support, mental health support and a dental clinic. That will be the first real step to bringing organized medical care for the uninsured on a larger basis," she said.
And so Quillen, her health center staff and the volunteer gala committee stay busy planning for the eighth-annual gala set for April 27 at St. Florian Hall in Wintersville.
"Our co-chairs, Dr. Tom and Suzanne Brown, have so much enthusiasm and provide so much inspiration that we are working very hard to meet this year's campaign goal of $140,000," noted Quillen.
"This is a very generous community that has responded to the health center's financial needs year after year. The $140,000 goal is ambitious but we feel we can achieve that goal. The gala will include 600 mystery boxes and some very good auction items that will be sold by Auctioneer Dale Featheringham. I believe with the help of our gala committee, our sponsors and the community, we will have another successful gala," Suzanne Brown said.
According to Quillen, several charitable trusts already have donated to the free dental clinic, including the Mary Jane Brooks Trust, J.C. Williams Trust, Esther Simmons Trust, Delta Dental Foundation and Patterson Foundation.
"These financial donations along with the community support will allow us to make the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center dental clinic a reality this year," said Quillen.
Tickets can be purchased by calling Quillen at the Fourth Street Health Center at (740) 283-2856.
"The gala will be a semi-formal, black-tie-optional, affair that will include dinner, more than $10,000 in donated prizes for a live auction and mystery boxes and recognition of area honorees. We have added a champagne hour with passed hors d'oeuvres prior to dinner to allow for more networking opportunities. And Sonny Sunseri and his jazz group will be providing entertainment at the gala. This is going to be an exciting and rewarding evening," added Suzanne Brown.
"There are still a large number of Jefferson County residents who are uninsured and need our help. The health center provides medical help to those who have no health insurance. According to the 2013 county health rankings, we have 7,000 Jefferson County residents who are uninsured.The gala is a major fundraiser for our operations," remarked Quillen.
"We also want to give people the opportunity to make a donation to the Fourth Street Health Center. Someone may not have the chance to attend the gala but would still like to make a monetary donation. Those donations can be sent to the center at 701 N. Fourth St. and all amounts will be welcomed," said Quillen.
"I think people give to the health center because they want to make things better for others. We see a lot of people support the gala in many ways. And it is so easy to support the gala and the health center because we all know someone who for some reason is uninsured. We are growing in leaps and bounds, but financial help is needed so we can continue to serve those in need," noted Quillen.
(Gossett can be contacted at email@example.com)