Uptown Harrisburg will get a new health care provider next week, as Beacon Clinic, a free, faith-based primary care facility at the corner of Seneca and Green streets, prepares to open its doors on March 3.
The clinic, which has taken over a hallway in the rectory building behind St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, will initially be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m.
Beacon will provide preventive care and counseling to uninsured and underserved adults, including the homeless, the working poor, immigrants and prisoners in transition, said Ruth Stoll, a nurse and member of the clinic’s board of directors.
The opening represents the culmination of four years of fundraising, planning, and scouting for a location. “It’s here, finally,” Stoll said at a preview breakfast program at the facility Thursday morning. “We’re really here.”
Stoll, who was a parish nurse at St. Paul’s for six years, said the idea for the clinic sprung from conversations with a new pastor there, who sought to take the church’s ministry “beyond the walls of the church” and into the community.
Since then, the clinic’s supporters have registered Beacon as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, procured the necessary medical equipment and installed a medical director, a nurse practitioner and an interim executive director as its three part-time staff members.
They have also taken surveys of residents in the area, in which, clinic representatives said on Thursday, a third of respondents indicated they had no insurance and received no health care except from emergency rooms.
“There’s a huge need in the community,” said Rev. Willie Dixon, the pastor at Wesley Union AME Zion, nearby at 5th and Camp streets, who worked with the clinic in the early days of planning. “This is a community that feels it’s been underserved for many years. So this will be a real encouragement to them.”
Beacon now occupies a suite of rooms, each bearing a fresh coat of mint-green paint, along a timeworn tiled hallway off the church’s Green St. parking lot. There are two examination rooms, a reception room, a counseling room and an office.
Among Beacon’s services will be counseling, assessment of patients, referral to other providers and management of chronic illnesses like diabetes. The clinic is equipped to perform simple laboratory work like blood tests and urinalysis, but will have no drugs onsite and will not dispense medication.
The goal in the initial period after opening will be to “aim small, miss small,” said David Froehlich, a doctor and Beacon board member, with the hopes to grow and expand as additional needs become known and resources become available.
“Harrisburg is really the world,” Froehlich added. “You don’t have to leave the country to take care of the world. If we don’t take care of our own community, what can we say?”
Some of Beacon’s medical equipment was donated by retired doctors. A retired dentist donated an entire dental suite, though the clinic does not yet have the capacity to provide dental care.
But Beacon is still looking for additional equipment, including a television and cart to help educate patients, desks and chairs, a laptop computer and projector and an i-STAT system for onsite blood analysis, Stoll said.
The clinic, which aside from the three part-time staff members is manned entirely by volunteers, is also looking for people who can donate time to the facility.
Stoll, addressing the faith-based aspect of the care, said the clinic would seek to communicate to patients that their “bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and they need to take care of themselves.”
Rosalie Baker-Lambeth, a Camp Hill-based acupuncturist and Beacon volunteer, said she didn’t have to look far to find neighbors in need of care. Pointing to a vase of flowers, she related a story from the grocery store where she had recently purchased them.
“The woman at the checkout asked if they were for my husband,” Baker-Lambeth said. She explained that, in fact, she was buying them for a free clinic. “I said two sentences about the clinic. And she said, ‘Oh, I could use that. I could that.’”