By: Chad Felton
When asked about Lake County Free Clinic’s key accomplishments in 2019, Executive Director Martin Hiller pinpoints his No. 1 with no hesitation.
““The increase in the amount of dental capacity we were able to create over the year,” he said. “At the beginning of the year, we had two clinics (half days) per month, limited to emergency care and primarily extractions. At year’s end, we were routinely offering 10 clinics a month, all due to an increasing number of volunteer dental professionals.”
With the increase, Hiller added, services were expanded to include simple
restorations as well as dental hygiene services.
“A timely gift from the Ohio Dental Association Society will allow us to upgrade our X-ray unit in early 2020,” Hiller said.
Beyond the growth in dental service capacity, Lake County Free Clinic was able to upgrade its computer network and hardware, making full use of its electronic health record through a capital grant from The Lubrizol Foundation.
The system — Epic — made available by the Cleveland Clinic, is one of the largest providers of health information technology, used primarily by large U.S. hospitals and health systems to access, organize, store and share
electronic medical records.
“It’s an excellent tool for our providers and a great linkage to the Cleveland Clinic and others who use this same system,” Hiller said.
Last year also saw the beginning of the Hiller’s tenure as staff lead at Lake County Free Clinic.
Prior holding the role in an interim capacity, Hiller held several national consultancies in the free and charitable clinic sector, beginning his career and spending nearly 30 years at the Cleveland Free Clinic, serving over 20 as the executive director.
In 2020, as in previous years, the largest challenge for Lake County Free Clinic is community awareness, Hiller noted.
“First, it is important that those who may be eligible for and in need of our services are aware of the resource,” he said. “But of equal importance, all members of our community should be aware of this essential community asset and the benefit it brings, not only to the people it serves, but to the community at large.
“We are largely dependent upon local support to carry out our work. Absent that support, we would not be able to continue our work. All too often when we talk with local audiences about the free clinic, they had not known of it previously. Community awareness is essential to our
success. Imagine its impact — for every $1 donated, we deliver $10 in value of service to the community.”
Additional challenges moving forward regard the budget, Hiller added, as service to patients who turn to the facility for assistance saw a 20 percent increase in the last year alone.
“Simply put, our fundraising results will have to expand
proportionately,” Hiller said. “We do not receive federal funding nor do we collect any insurance reimbursement. We rely upon the community. If the community responds
positively, our budget issues will be resolved. If not, we will have some difficult challenges to address.”
Larger challenges looming in 2020 include expansion of service hours, increasing local support and strengthening the board of trustees.
The clinic intends to also open for evening hours in the coming months, Hiller added.
“Many of our patients work and if they take time away to see the doctor, they miss pay,” he said. “We hope to remedy this barrier with those hours that will increase over time as resources allow.”
The clinic will also be open at least one Saturday a month for the same purpose.
“Many of our patients also have issues beyond a medical condition that bring them to us and in the coming year we will be implementing plans to strengthen our ties with other health and social service organizations to better meet these extended needs,” Hiller said.
“Whether it’s food, a stable home or a steady job, Lake County Free Clinic will be involved in stabilizing their lives and, thus, improving their health.”