News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 10, 2014
Peninsula Free Health looks back at first four months

by Anne Berleant

After opening its doors in November, Peninsula Free Health has one winter and the initial Affordable Care Act enrollment period behind it.

“For us, it’s been a learning process since November, since we started opening the doors and seeing the community’s reactions and what the needs are,” said Board Vice-President Leslie Goode in a recent interview.

One service the clinic began providing, based on feedback from clients, was flu shots. “It was a demand we hadn’t really thought of,” she said.

The clinic, open on Mondays from 3 to 6 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Blue Hill, has helped 170 clients from 16 towns with primary health care and pharmacist consultations.

It also has guided 130 people through the Affordable Care Act website, with 100 of those fully signed up for health insurance and “getting care well beyond the services we provide at the clinic,” said Goode.

The clinic works, she said, because of the range of its services. People come for primary care services and to talk to the pharmacist on how to manage medication and how to get affordable prescriptions. “The [prescription] cost issue is huge for people.”

The Affordable Care Act open enrollment period closed on March 31, but Goode said she thinks “there will be a little bit of tailwind for the next weeks” as people finish applications started before the deadline. Open enrollment begins again November 1.

The number of new health insurance enrollees hasn’t reduced the number seeking health services at the clinic.

“We haven’t experienced any drop,” Goode said, “particularly because we’re in Maine, [which] hasn’t taken up the offer to expand the federal [Medicaid] program. There are single, childless adults who previously had been eligible for MaineCare, who are no longer. We’ve seen some of those people.”

Also, there “are still some people who, for whatever reason, for affordability or personal choice, don’t have insurance.”

Currently, five to 10 people visit the clinic each week for primary care services. “For now, it does seem like we are offering a solution to an unmet need.”

The clinic is “still in conversations” with Blue Hill Memorial Hospital for free or low-cost basic lab and x-ray services. “We haven’t resolved that yet, but we’re hopefully close,” Goode said.

The clinic is also looking for doctors and nurses to fill in for its volunteer medical staff—and for a new home. Currently, patients are seen in the pastor’s office and intake is done in the hallway. The Simmering Pot community meal takes place during clinic hours and provides live music and a warm atmosphere, but the clinic would like to be able to store its supplies and offer more privacy to clients.

The clinic hosts a website (peninsulafree

<p> and a Facebook page.

“We’re really interested in feedback from the community about the kinds of things that are useful for them—hours, locations—to help us grow as an organization that’s a good fit for the community.”