Eau Claire man shares impact of having free clinic as resource - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Eau Claire man shares impact of having free clinic as resource

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - A clinic that provides free care to those in need is one destination for your United Way dollars.  Recently, WQOW News 18 has been tracking that money, asking where your dollars go.

Teddi Martin, the Director of the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic, says, "Every service provided here is completely free. On any given month we see somewhere between 200 and 350 people."

Darrell Leitzke was one of them. He and his wife, Mary, started using the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic about three and a half years ago, after the company she worked for was sold. 

Leitzke says, "We had always gotten our insurance through them, the new company came in and said they weren't going to offer health insurance."  

Leitzke says he immediately started looking into buying health insurance. "For two people our age, it was ridiculous. All it would take is one catastrophic illness and we could lose our home, we could lose everything we've ever worked for," he explains.  

At first, they were reluctant about reaching out to the free clinic for basic care needs. 

Martin says, "I think people feel hesitant because they feel we are a service for people who have made bad life choices, the failures of the world. And they don't consider themselves the failures of the world. And they're not. They were people who were caught in a failing economy."

Leitzke says, "Now, finally, through the Affordable Care Act we've gotten wonderful insurance. Actually, it's better than we had through her employer."

But even with health care reform, there's still a place for a free clinic in the community. "People will always need health care; there will always be people in transition. You never know when your job is going to go away. So, this is a good home for you until you get back on your feet."

One of the funding providers for the free clinic is the United Way. Michael Hoadley, the Director of Community Investment at United Way, says, "Now we're really trying to get a long term solution, trying to have an  impact beyond just the immediate. We talk about funding the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic, now we'd be talking about, in this next round of funding,  programs that would get funding like here a the clinic it might be their mental health clinic or their diabetes clinic."

Leitzke says, "When you're younger you think about cars and motorcycles. As you get older, if you have health insurance that is number one."

The United Way is now focused on three key areas to help residents and families: health, income and education.  To learn more about that approach, click here.

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