A free health clinic that’s operated in Stoughton for a decade is expanding its service area and hoping to recruit more volunteers.
The Shalom Holistic Health Services board of directors also recently changed the facility’s name to Free Health Clinic and hired a new director.
Board president Barry Verdegan said the name change should make the clinic’s mission less confusing to the public.
“People read things into the name – that we’re a Jewish religious organization, or that we’re somehow related to the New Age movement or even quackery, which isn’t the case,” Verdegan explained. “We don’t do religious proselytizing. We’re a free health clinic with a professional staff.”
Verdegan and the clinic’s new director, Sharon Folbrecht, told the Hub the clinic now serves low-income people from surrounding communities including Evansville, Oregon, McFarland, Brooklyn, Cambridge, Deerfield, Cottage Grove and Edgerton. Until recently, the clinic provided services only to people living within the Stoughton Area School District.
“In the past, we received calls from just outside our service area, but because of our geographical limits, we weren’t able to help them,” Verdegan explained. “That’s been frustrating for people seeking service and also for our providers.
He said the Free Health Clinic is supported “so well by Stoughton Hospital that it made sense” to expand to match Stoughton Hospital’s area of coverage. The hospital provides X-rays and lab work at no cost to the clinic, and several hospital employees also volunteer at the clinic or serve on its board.
“A lot of our referrals are from the hospital ER, so there’s a lot of coordination already and it just made sense to expand,” Verdegan said.
The clinic has been operating at 1116 Ridge St. since 2008 in a building donated by Skaalen Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. It provides non-emergency, basic healthcare services such as screening, testing, physicals, care for chronic conditions, mental-health care to low-income, uninsured and underinsured people.
A Stoughton native, Folbrecht is a founding member of Free Health Clinic and a retired social worker with experience in hospital emergency rooms and as a medical social worker. She has been a member of the board for eight years and succeeds Dorothy Peterson, who retired after 10 years as the clinic director.
Folbrecht told the Hub the clinic prefers to serve patients who have a scheduled appointment but will accept walk-ins from 5-7 p.m. on Thursdays. The clinic serves 15 to 20 patients a year and has recently seen an increase in demand, she said.
“Since approximately the middle of January, we are averaging four to six patients each night we are open,” Folbrecht said. “On one night, we saw eight patients.”
The increased demand and changes in the type of services offered – more demand for mental health services, for example – has prompted the clinic to recruit more volunteers. It needs help in all areas, including medical professionals and “just normal people to help keep the building open and the clinic running,” Verdegan said, such as keeping records and taking calls.
“We also provide things like physical therapy, nutrition and medical education and could use more help in those areas,” he added, “because a lot of the help we offer is in patients learning new skills or new information. A lot of patients have chronic conditions, and there’s a lot of education that goes along with a chronic condition.”