Compassionate health care at little to no cost is just what the doctor ordered for those seeking medical care at the Raphael Community Free Clinic in Kerrville.
For years, with the help of volunteers and generous donations, the clinic has served low-income patients from Kerrville and surrounding communities with basic health care services.
“We serve people who need a little extra,” Clinic Director Ken Zysko said.
Zysko said the clinic relies on charitable donations from large and small donors and partnerships from the community to fund the growth they continue to experience.
Some of those donations come from volunteers who log countless hours to provide care. The clinic also partners with Peterson Health in an effort to reduce emergency room visits for routine illnesses or injuries. Peterson also handles the laboratory work for the clinic, which in turn helps reduce the burden on the clinic to perform those tasks.
Originally located in the gymnasium at Notre Dame Catholic School, today’s clinic is housed on Water Street where staff and volunteers have plenty of dedicated space to tend to patients needs with four large exam rooms, a pharmacy and space where patients can receive counseling.
The clinic does not treat children, but for the last 18 years, the staff has provided some holiday cheer for families in need. Each holiday season, volunteers at the clinic pack the conference room with clothes, hand-knitted blankets and beautiful child-size quilts to give to patients with children.
The clinic doesn’t wrap the gifts, they just want to help their patients with young children. Zysko’s own wife and clinic volunteers can be found throughout the year shopping for clothes to donate.
Founded 22 years ago by Franciscan Sisters Marge Novak and Mary Ann Giardina, the clinic has evolved in order to meet the needs of the community.
Open just four days a week, the dedicated paid staff includes three nurse practitioners, two medical assistants and three registered nurses in the pharmacy.
“The paid staff and volunteers are devoted to helping those in need,” said Zysko. “It is easy to keep good people because they have an opportunity to give back to the community directly by working here.”
Medical records are stored electronically for 1,300 regular patients, most suffer from chronic illness and would otherwise not receive treatment. Last year, 850 cases of diabetes were seen.
Currently, New Hope Counseling Services offers mental health service three days a week at the clinic. Zysko would like to expand his paid staff of 14 to include a full-time counselor, making it possible to offer more comprehensive medical care.
“We have had some real success with counseling,” said Zysko. “Often the root problem can be diagnosed when a patient speaks with a counselor.”
As part of the plan to expand counseling services, Zysko would like to include education to patients on healthy diet and lifestyle choices.
Once a client meets the financial requirements, usually as simple as providing a current tax return, they are seen within nine days.
A client is eligible for services if their annual income is at or below 200% of the current Federal poverty level, $24,280 for an individual and $32,920 for a family of two.