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Free clinic gets $75,000 shot in arm

Free clinic gets $75,000 shot in arm

A $75,000 grant from the county and a switch to generic prescription drugs should help stabilize ope

A $75,000 grant from the county and a switch to generic prescription drugs should help stabilize operations of the Schenectady Free Clinic through the end of the year, clinic director Bill Spolyar said.

Schenectady County legislators announced the grant Friday morning during a news conference at the clinic, 600 Franklin St. The county has given the clinic a total of $275,000 since 2007. The $75,000 grant comes from the county’s surplus account.

Spolyar said the grant will give the clinic credibility when seeking grants from foundations. “Foundations do not want to give money to any entity that will not survive,” he said. “We are calling the county money a stabilization grant.”

Spolyar said the clinic has submitted eight grant applications.

The clinic had been operating month-to-month because of a loss of critical funding from the state. At one point, Spolyar said, the clinic had about 60 days left to operate, a case that no longer applies.

Dr. Brian Gordon, chairman of the county Legislature’s Health Committee, said the county gave the clinic money because it meets the health care needs of approximately 3,000 people with little or no insurance. “By keeping people out of the emergency room, the clinic helps reduce health care costs,” he said.

Susan Savage, chairwoman of the county Legislature, said the county’s support lets the community know the clinic is viable and helps with its fundraising efforts.

The clinic switched to the use of generic drugs in June, cutting its costs by half, Spolyar said. In June, the clinic also started to charge patients a $5 co-payment for medicine.

The clinic provides patients with prescription drugs that treat chronic medical conditions, like diabetes and asthma. It is the only clinic in the area to provide prescription drugs for next to nothing to people with little or no insurance.

The clinic had been spending approximately $500,000 of its $600,000 annual budget to purchase medicine for its patients through Price Chopper. It owes Price Chopper $200,000, Spolyar said.

“They have been working with us hand in glove. We have a contract with them,” he said. We wouldn’t be here if they didn’t work with us. It’s part of the Golub Corporation’s commitment to the community.”

Dr. Robert Pletman, a clinic co-founder, said the clinic should have switched to generic drugs earlier. “It was a mistake. When we started this clinic we did not know what we were getting into. We did not know how many people were not getting care. Now that we know, we can’t quit,” he said.

Spolyar estimates there are up to 15,000 people in Schenectady County with little or no insurance. He said the clinic also provides free pre-employment physicals. This feature has helped the “working poor” obtain jobs, which has had a beneficial financial effect on the county, he said.

The clinic has so far received $100,000 from the Schenectady Foundation and $30,000 from the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region. It has also received about $25,000 in donations.

The clinic once received $325,000 in discretionary funds from the state Department of Health. When he was governor, Eliot Spitzer eliminated discretionary funds from the budget, thereby depriving the clinic of that support.

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