Guest commentary: Naples Friendship Health Clinic Serves the Needy

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By Wayne Mullican

Naples

Even though the Florida Legislature turned down federal assistance to expand Medicaid for low income citizens and the unemployed, the Naples Friendship Health Clinic continues to provide medical and dental care for our citizens aged 50 and above whose incomes are three times the poverty level of $11,490 or less.

Many of our patients are unemployed. There is a minimum charge for services rendered, but this doesn’t begin to cover all the costs. The clinic depends on donations and grants to keep the doors open.

Collier County is very fortunate to have this medical service available for the needy. Retired doctors, dentists and nurses provide all medical services on a volunteer basis. Last year the clinic served more than 1,000 individuals and families accounting for at least 5,000 patient visits.

The clinic, located on the corner of Pine Ridge Road and Naples Boulevard, primarily provides non-emergency treatment and management of chronic health conditions which helps keep our patients healthier and out of the emergency rooms in our local hospitals.

Specialty areas include cardiology, gynecology, dermatology, ophthalmology, orthopedics and pulmonary medicine.

The single busiest specialty is dental. While dental care is essential to good health, the cost is often unaffordable by the needy and thus one of the last things for which they seek treatment.

The clinic was the vision of Holy Cross Brother William Geenen who established the Senior Friendship Centers in Sarasota. During a visit to Naples in 1985, he along with the late Dr. Frank Nulsen raised money to open a health center for needy seniors in Collier County.

From that humble beginning, the Naples Friendship Health Clinic has grown to include 80 volunteer professional and ancillary staff providing more than 7,500 hours of volunteer services with an in-kind value of more than $800,000 to the community.

Those uninsured and needing care should contact the clinic at 239-566-7425. The hours of operation are Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Those wishing to make a donation to keep this essential service for our most needy citizens should send them to the Friendship Health Clinic, 2171 Pine Ridge Road, Suite F, Naples, 34109. All donations are, of course, tax-deductible.

Volunteers are needed for a variety of services, including: retired or retiring physicians, dentists, nurses, office staff, grant writing, and fundraising. For information, please contact the director, Betty Gamel, at 239 566-7425 or bgamel@friendshipcenters.org.

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