By Anna-Marie Menhenott
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- For the uninsured and under-insured, health and dental care is sometimes only an option when it's an emergency. Those at Hands of St. Lucie County want to help change that.
"There are thousands and thousands of people who are without insurance in St. Lucie County," said Andrew Passeri, executive director of the clinic. "We treat only a handful of those people. So, the rest are either going without healthcare, or showing up at the emergency room when their illness has gotten so bad that they can't take it anymore."
The clinic has a small staff and runs with the help of volunteers who spend their time helping with charts, calling patients and helping them fill out the necessary paperwork to receive help.
"Without the help from volunteers, and the time the doctors spend here, we wouldn't be able to exist. Which would be a shame, because there are so many people here who really need our services," Dr. Passeri said.
The Hands Clinic offers primary care to low-income, uninsured adults. There are dental services available to those who qualify, health education and smoking cessation classes and also a pediatric dental screening program.
To become a client at the clinic, patients must go through a financial eligibility screening process. Clients must be a resident of St. Lucie County and have lived here continuously for the past 6 months; be 18 to 64 years of age; be uninsured - no Medicaid, Medicare, Veterans benefits, or any other health care insurance; and have a low household income.
"Our mission is increasing access to health care for low income residents," Dr. Passeri said. "When it opened in 2008 there were only a handful of individuals with the same goals, now we have grown to a county-wide network of health providers, agencies, and volunteers dedicated to increasing health care access for low income residents. We now have over 30 community partners including the three local hospitals, three local medical societies, St. Lucie County Health Department, and Florida Community Health Center."
Hands of St. Lucie County is located at 3855 South U.S. 1, in Fort Pierce. For more information, call (772) 344-2548 or visit them at www.handsofslc.org