Chesapeake Care Clinic continues to serve the uninsured

CHESAPEAKE — When the pandemic cast a dark cloud over the world, the need for medical care increased even while access to that care faded.

Chesapeake Care Clinic, a nonprofit organization that provides medical and dental services to low income and underserved individuals throughout the state, has been working to maintain and even increase that access.

As the number of people in the region unemployed and without health insurance has grown, clinic director Dourina Petersen wants them to know there is somewhere to turn.

Maryellen Remich, board chair, said there is more room to serve individuals because when Medicaid expanded its eligibility about 50% to 75% of the clinic’s patients went on the government-funded health insurance.

They also increased the eligibility from 200% of the federal poverty level to to 300%, Remich said.

“We want to get the word out that we’re here and we can help,” Remich said.

Patients pay $10 per visit for medical services at the clinic and $30 per visit for the dental center.

Remich said the clinic has partnered with Montero Medical Mission, which is paying for an initial dental clinic visit for veterans.

Due to the coronavirus, patients are currently seen in house only when necessary and the majority of visits are done via telemedicine.

“Dental, right now, is being seen for emergencies only, and we’re seeing a fair amount of that,” Remich said. “As soon as we can we’ll open back up again.”

The clinic received a $2,000 grant from the Hampton Roads Workforce Council to buy about 75 blood pressure cuffs for patients who need them.

“They take their blood pressure at home, and then we call and monitor them,” Remich said.

The clinic, which was recognized by Inside Business as one of its 2020 Healthcare Heroes, has maintained the bulk of its volunteers throughout the pandemic.

“Most of them continue to work from home, which is phenomenal,” Petersen said.

Started in 1992 by Dr. Juan Montero, the clinic was originally operated by volunteer health care workers who saw a need. As the demand for affordable healthcare grew, a core staff was added.

Today the clinic has a network of more than 500 licensed medical, dental and administrative volunteers.

Volunteers include physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, hygienists, pharmacists and medical assistants.

Building and grounds maintenance, meals for volunteers, projects and supply shopping is all done by volunteers.

Originally located on Sparrow Road, it relocated to its current location at 2145 S. Military Highway in 1999. In 2012 the Hampton Roads Dental Center at Chesapeake Care opened. A medication dispensary providing deeply discounted generic prescriptions is also onsite.

“In April we started mailing prescriptions to our patients as long as they can wait two days,” Petersen said. “Which I’m hoping is something that will continue even after the pandemic because a lot of our patients have transportation barriers and this would eliminate that.”