HCCAN broke
Charitable clinic canceled, other services in jeopardy

Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

July 16, 2004 -- Hopkins County Community Action Network announced earlier this week that the charitable clinic, normally open the third Saturday of each month, will not be open this Saturday. Director Dawn Sheffield said Thursday the organization has run out of money.

"We are kind of in unfortunate straights right now, financially," said Dawn Sheffield of HCCAN. "Any money that I did have was going to pay the bills and pay the salary."

The financial condition forced the program to terminate the only paid employee. Sheffield said she has not been paid since the program began more than three years ago.

"All of my extra money that I did not have to pay for lights and electricity went for [employee's] salary," she said. "So, now we are down to the point of no salary, no funds to pay [an employee] and certainly no funds to pay me. Now I am back to where I was a long time ago."

The HCCAN clinic had been serving the medical needs of a large number of people through a monthly free clinic. Sheffield said she does not know what will happen with those people.

"It is on hold. It's not gone, it's on hold," Sheffield said. "People that need health care and would have come to the clinic can dial 2-1-1 and their call will come to our office and I will do what I can to try to find resources to get them health care. I can't make any guarantees."

The director said people with emergency medical needs should go to the hospital, but she said the 2-1-1 service would attempt to provide some help.

"I am not having a clinic Saturday, but if they are having an urgent medical need, they need to go to the emergency room, bottom line," she said. "If it is just a medical condition they would typically go to a doctor's office for, if they need some kind of assistance with that, if they would call 2-1-1, we will do what we can to try and find the resources to get what they need."

HCCAN began providing services at 525 Church Street about three years ago and was funded primarily by state dollars for the statewide 2-1-1 information and referral service.

"What we opened the doors with was the funding for 2-1-1," Sheffield said. "We had received some funding for 2-1-1, that was the start-up fund that helped us get going here and we managed to keep everything running with those limited funds and with wonderful donations from the community."

Sheffield said she had been led to believe additional 2-1-1 funding would be received from the state last September. However the state legislature cut funds for many programs because of a budget shortfall.

"What they did decide to cut were operational funds, and I was depending on those funds to keep going with 2-1-1," she said. "That would keep the lights on, which would allow us to do all the other volunteer stuff we do."

Sheffield said the HCCAN program had been "limping along since last September" on donations from the community. Those donations, however, were just not sufficient to allow the volunteer services to continue.

The charitable clinic is only one service under HCCAN. Other services include 2-1-1, career clothing closet and several other functions.

"So we have the parent organization which is the community action network and the charitable clinic is only one of the things we do," she said. "I'm hoping to keep everything going, but it is going to be a little bit difficult because our funding for 2-1-1 didn't come through."

In lieu of the charitable clinic, a new method that may prove more efficient and workable is being developed and will help people receive health care during the month rather than in the free clinic that has been open on the third Saturday of each month.

"We are planning to continue as much as everything we have started. I am just not sure how we are going to do it," she said. "We are down, but we are not out, and I could sure use some help."

Some funding will come along in December but Sheffield said it will probably not be enough to keep the program going.

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