Startzman Free Clinic offers medical care in Wayne and Holmes

Startzman Free Clinic offers medical care in Wayne and Holmes

Image Credit: Ellen Pill

Since 1995 the Viola Startzman Clinic has filled the void for area residents who are in need of accessible and low- or no-cost medical care. Relying on community financial and volunteer support, the services and reach of the clinic have grown astronomically over the years to meet the rising needs. The clinic is in the process of growing from one building to include a dental office, two medical facilities and mobile units.

"Overall, the mission of the clinic is to provide healthcare and hope to residents of Wayne and Holmes counties and surrounding communities in an atmosphere of dignity and respect," said Jaime Parsons, CEO of the Viola Startzman Clinic.

The clinic serves those with lower incomes, both with and without insurance. Startzman offers discounted or free comprehensive healthcare including medical and dental services. Assistance is available in obtaining social services and on-the-spot emergency food and supplies when no other option is immediately available. All services are provided on a sliding scale and are free when necessary.

"We are definitely experts on caring for folks who have barriers to (obtaining) care," Parsons said. "We accept any patient who walks through the door, regardless of insurance or income status."

In its first year of operation, the clinic served 280 patients. In 2020 that number topped 7,000. Looking ahead to figures for 2021, Parsons estimated care may be provided to 8,500 residents who otherwise may not have been able to obtain needed services. Initially providing care to those without insurance, today the clinic also is able to accept patients with Medicaid and other insurance plans, fulfilling the clinic mission to serve as a safety net for lower income patients who struggle to access care in other places.

Through a combination of 23 staff members and over 400 volunteers, the clinic offers an array of medical, dental, behavioral, social and adjunct services.

Regular wellness exams, physicals, care for many chronic conditions, acute care for illness and injury, women's health services, infectious disease care, dermatology, physical therapy, behavioral healthcare, and family planning services are among the resources available to clinic patients at the Wooster Family Medical Center.

"We even have an in-house lab and a medication dispensary," Parsons said, "to help patients get those services without having to leave the building."

The Wooster Family Dental Center provides general dental services such as exams, x-rays, cleanings, root canals, caps, crowns, preventative treatments and oral health educational programs. Extraction clinics are offered several times per month as a safe alternative for teeth that can no longer be saved.

"I can't tell you how many times we see patients who try to pull a tooth on their own and then come to us," Parsons said. "We want to prevent home extractions."

A satellite clinic inside the Orrville Boys & Girls Club is currently closed due to COVID-19 to help keep the kids safe. Until that site may safely be reopened, the clinic works with patients in Wooster, offering assistance to anyone who has a transportation barrier to make sure they can receive needed care.

The clinic also owns mobile dental and medical equipment and is looking forward to expanding their mobile presence in both Wayne and Holmes counties in the coming year.

"We're small enough to be mobile quickly," Parsons said. "If there's a need, we can get out there and serve the people that need us."

Currently, plans are in the works for pop-up, mobile COVID-19 vaccination sites across the area.

Additional clinic outreach extends well beyond the confines of the brick and mortar buildings and mobile facilities. Outreach teams make several visits per week to the United Church of Christ breakfast program, the Salvation Army Day Center and other places where people who may be in need of assistance gather.

As their mission statement explains, the Viola Startzman Clinic is dedicated to providing hope along with medical services.

"When we have patients with complex needs," Parsons said, "we take a lot of time to help identify barriers to care."

This may include concerns related to domestic violence, food insecurity or scores of other needs.

"We have case managers and insurance navigators who will meet one on one with patients several times each week, digging into issue after issue and seeing how we can find a solution," Parsons said.

Additionally, the clinic now has food pharmacies, which enable them to provide enough food to help a patient get through several days while clinic staff members help with finding assistance through an area food bank.

Volunteer nutritionists and dietitians help to create food bags specifically tailored for certain medical conditions, ranging from hypertension, to diabetes, to a dental patient in need of a soft diet. Community partners assist in providing nutrition education as well. The OSU Extension offers help with recipes, cooking tips and classes; The College of Wooster partners in a community garden; Buehler's Fresh Food donates food and offers discounts on needed items; and The Western Reserve Group is offering assistance in purchasing refrigerators. Among other current needs, the clinic is searching for a partner to help fund freezers.

Essentially, the clinic relies on the community, and the community needs the clinic. "It's a very valuable resource," said Startzman volunteer Tim Breiner, who offers expertise in helping people navigate the process of obtaining insurance.

An "insurance assister," Breiner is trained to provide guidance in navigating a wide range of options from Medicaid to Medicare supplements.

"The clinic provides a vital service. Where would we be without the Startzman clinic? What would people do? I don't know. What would they do?" Breiner said.

The Viola Startzman Clinic Wooster Family Medical Center is located at 1739 Cleveland Road, and the Wooster Family Dental Center is located at 1874 Cleveland Road, both in Wooster. The Orrville satellite facility is currently closed. Call 330-262-2500 for an appointment, information or questions.