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Denise and Greg White had been without health insurance since March. They’ve been paying out of pocket for any medical expenses.

The couple had been on the Healthy Indiana Plan, or HIP, which provides health coverage to low-income adults 19 to 64. But when Greg received a raise at his job and Denise changed jobs, they were removed from the plan, Denise said.

Denise is a diabetic and has high cholesterol. “My three meds I am on is $65 a month out of my pocket. I am running to three different places just to get it for $65 a month,” she said.

“I can’t even afford that, so I just haven’t done it.”

On Feb. 6, Denise made her first appointment at the Brown County Health and Wellness Center during the clinic’s open house. The clinic, in a former storage building at Brown County Schools’ Eagle Park, opened in late January, and on Feb. 6, the Brown County Chamber of Commerce had a “gauze cutting” during the open house.

“I am loving it,” Denise White said of the new clinic. She said the couple found out about the center after a waitress at the Story Inn, where Greg works, brought in information.

Denise works for Home Helpers, and it’s her job to keep people safe and healthy in their own homes instead of moving to a nursing home. She worked a half-day Feb. 6 before going home sick but still made sure she went to the open house. “I told my husband … wake me up at 4 because we gotta go, we gotta go,’” Denise said.

As the couple were walking away from one of the exam rooms, clinic manager Megan Higginbotham was wiping tears from her cheeks. Hearing the story about the Whites’ health care situation, “It’s really emotional for me,” she said.

“This is exactly why I love this company. I started out as a nurse in the clinic, fell in love with the culture. … That’s what sets us apart. … We are designed to provide cost-efficient and effective care for every patient and use all of our resources and values to the needs of each individual.”

Medical assistant Stacy Rice agreed. “That’s what we’re for. That’s our purpose,” she said.

Community clinic

All people — whether they’re associated with the school district or not — are able to use the services at Brown County Health and Wellness Center through a membership arrangement. A membership for one adult starts at $65 a month and can be canceled at any time.

Wellness for Life is operating the clinic. The company is not associated with Columbus Regional Health or IU Health, which operate the two existing family practice doctors’ offices in Nashville.

To start, the clinic will be open Tuesdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

On Feb. 6, Rodney Clark, an account executive for Wellness for Life, said that 10 community members had signed up for memberships at the clinic.

In an email Feb. 20, Clark said Wellness for Life is continuing to have “great conversations with many of the larger businesses in town and are signing up individuals every day now.”

Wellness for Life will speak at the Brown County Commissioners meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 1, he said. Sign-ups also will be offered at the Brown County YMCA on Monday and Wednesday, March 5 and 7, from 7 a.m. to noon and 5 to 7 p.m. both days. Five dollars of each person’s signup fee will be donated back to the YMCA on those days.

Clark said Wellness for Life is excited to be in Brown County.

“Just to be able to touch points with families that are in need of health care who fall into gaps of what the government can offer and what the private world can offer to them, to be able to offer that to them, to give them health care and medications they need and to be able to help them with lifestyle changes, to give them better health, is heartwarming and exciting all at the same time,” he said.

“You just get cold chills when talking to them and seeing the impact. We might be able to help their family and they’re just excited about it. We’re excited for them,” Clark said.

Brown Countians for Quality Healthcare are also looking into ways to fund memberships for those in the community who can’t afford it.

“We’re thrilled it’s a community clinic, not just an industry clinic,” Clark said. “We want the whole community to know it’s open to anybody, to be able to sign up.”

Clark said the goal for the next few months is to sign up enough new patients to have the clinic open five days a week.

“I really feel like we have that capability with the response we’re getting in town,” he said.

If the clinic picked up 100 new clients from the community, another day of service could be opened up.

“We had an older lady in town who called and said, ‘I think this is the greatest thing in health care since I’ve been around, and I’m 86 years old.’ She came, picked up brochures and went through town handing them out to people in town (Nashville),” Clark said.

“The word gets out.”

Good for people

Brown County Schools Superintendent Laura Hammack said the district “couldn’t be more excited” about the health clinic opening, “not just because we are now able to meet the health and wellness needs of our Brown County Schools employees, but genuinely, tonight, getting to see that the community can sincerely be a partner in this effort is touching,” she said.

“I am inspired by the number of folks we’ve seen tonight and I am really, really encouraged by their comments that they’re feeling like this is something that’s really going to add value to the community.”

School district employees will have access to the clinic through their medical coverage, while the general public can participate through the membership model.

Brown County Intermediate School sixth-grade classroom assistant Felicia Branson was at the open house with her partner, Jeff Terrill. Branson said she came to ask questions about Terrill’s eligibility as a spouse since they are not married yet.

Terrill’s employer recently cancelled his insurance and he is currently paying $300 a month for his own health insurance plan through the health care marketplace. He has a herniated disc that causes him problems and he has to go to a doctor in Greenwood in order to keep costs low.

“I was shocked and surprised they would put something like this (clinic) here. The more and more I hear people talking, I think it could be a good asset to the community,” Branson said.

“Right now I go to a doctor in Bloomington, so it would be obviously a lot closer and it would be no co-pay. … I think it’s wonderful. Most of the time when I go or my daughter goes, our doctors are in Bloomington.”

Recently, Branson said she was sick and couldn’t get in to see her doctor in Bloomington or Nashville.

“There was nothing available, so I had to go to a Prompt Care. I ended up having to go there and wait quite a while. … That was a letdown because I was really sick,” she said.

Branson said the new clinic will be convenient for school employees, especially being open until 6 p.m.

“That will be good for a lot of people,” she said.

From left to right: Brown County Health and Wellness Center clinic manager Megan Higginbotham, registered nurse Carla Schick, medical assistant Stacy Rice, Brown County Schools Superintendent Laura Hammack, Brown County Chamber of Commerce President Vicki Blake and Wellness for Life account executive Rodney Clark pose for a photo before the ribbon cutting of the new health clinic at Eagle Park on Feb. 6. The clinic is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is open to the community through a membership program that includes certain labs and medications. School employees can access services free of charge through their insurance plans.

Brown County Health and Wellness Center clinic manager Megan Higginbotham, center, talks with Denise and Greg White in one of the exam rooms during the open house for the new health clinic at Eagle Park on Feb. 6. The clinic is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is open to the community through a membership program that includes certain labs and medications. School employees can access services free of charge through their insurance plans.

Brown County Health and Wellness Center medical assistant Stacy Rice, speaks with Brown County Intermediate School sixth-grade classroom assistant Felicia Branson and her partner Jeff Terrill during the open house of the new health clinic at Eagle Park on Feb. 6. The clinic is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is open to the community through a membership program that includes certain labs and medications. School employees can access services free of charge through their insurance plans.

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