The lines at the Flagler Free Clinic form as early as 4 a.m. Those without health insurance wait for hours for its doors to open, because the clinic is the only place they have to go for healthcare. But soon, that resource could be gone.
Faith Coleman, co-founder of the clinic, said her landlord will soon be charging rent, possibly retroactive to January. The cost: $2,400 per month.
For each of the eight years that the clinic, a non-profit organization, has been open, it hasn’t paid rent. Coleman said she and the clinic’s board of directors are currently looking for an alternative location.
“The clinic wouldn’t shut down right away,” said Michaelyn Milidantri, volunteer office manager for the clinic. “We have some money, but we would need to continue to look for other locations, maybe not with free rent, but certainly at a lesser amount of rent.”
The clinic operates on donations, both of finances and of time from doctors, nurses and volunteers. Dr. John Canakaris, who founded the clinic with Coleman, died in December. The clinic is currently housed in Canakaris’ former practice.
“If we were not able to find a place, yes, it would eat up our money much more quickly than we would be able to earn it in donations,” Milidantri said. “Ultimately, we would have to close, I suppose.”
Late last year, the clinic marked its 10,000th patient served. Most patients come from Palm Coast, Coleman said.
“We’re quite busy,” she added. “It just makes all the difference for people who otherwise don’t have any insurance.”
The clinic’s board of directors will meet Monday to discuss methods of coping with this new expense. Coleman said one solution might be to find the money to purchase a building of its own.
For all the difficulty that comes with the new rental charge for the clinic, Coleman can see the benefits. She hopes to find a place for the clinic that can open more frequently.
Currently, the clinic hosts four clinics monthly, staffed by well over 100 volunteers. It opens at 8 a.m. the first and third Saturday of the month, and at 5 p.m. the first and third Thursday.
Thursday clinics take the first 10 patients, and Saturday clinics take the first 60. More people are treated if time allows, and potential patients wait for hours in case they’re able to receive treatment.
“Closing would just be devastating,” Coleman said. “We’re in the business of saving lives, and some of our patients have been with us from the start. We truly are their primary source of care.”