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More than 100 attended the annual meeting of the Community Care Clinic held Thursday
at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum.
Photos by Jeff Eason

Originally published: 2014-06-04 11:50:43
Last modified: 2014-06-04 11:51:27

Growing concern: Community Care Clinic seeing more patients

by Jeff Eason

It started eight years ago when local health care providers volunteered their services to low-income patients in a single room at the Hospitality House. 

The Community Care Clinic in Boone has since grown into one of the key health care providers in the community, with more than 5,000 patient visits in 2013. 

"We received $140,000 worth of volunteer hours last year for the Community Care Clinic," said Melissa Selby, the clinic's executive director, at the organization's annual meeting Thursday at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum.

 "A lot of people are confused by the new Affordable Care Act. They think everyone is covered by it. North Carolina chose to keep its Medicaid limits. What that means is that 27 percent of low-income people are eligible for Medicaid, leaving the other 73 percent ineligible." 

Erich Schlenker, chairman of the Community Care Clinic board of directors, told the group of 100 people or so at the meeting of his own family's experience with medical bills.

"A couple of years ago we were in Florida to go to Sea World," Schlenker said. "A drunk driver hit our motor home head on. My wife, my kids and myself were all badly hurt and sent to three different hospitals. I didn't see any of my family for more than a week. 

"We had medical insurance, really good insurance. Still it cost us tens of thousands of dollars for rehab that was not covered by the insurance," he said. "Accidents like this, medical bills like this, they can be life-destroying events. 

"A lot of people think that the Community Care Clinic is treating people who are too lazy to work, but the majority of our patients work full time," Schlenker said. 

In the last year, the Community Care Clinic has grown substantially. During 2013, the number of unduplicated patients receiving care increased by 26.3 percent and patient visits increased by 8.7 percent. 

"Patient visits continue to average six per patient each year due to the high percentage of chronic illness diagnoses and the importance of integrated care," Selby said. "Our neighbors who suffer from diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, COPD, heart disease and depression are receiving primary, behavioral health and specialty care, along with case management and education services."

Services at the Community Care Clinic include primary care, a women's clinic, physical therapy, diabetes education, wellness education, an on-site lab, chiropractic, dermatology, nursing visits, smoking cessation, mental health, orthopedics, neurology, case management and other services. 

The clinic receives vision care services from Western Carolina Eye Associates and dental care services from Appalachian Dental Care. 

During the meeting, members of the audience watched filmed testimonials from several Community Care Clinic patients.

Watauga County resident Peter Morris spoke about his long-term battle with pancreatic cancer and his inability to find affordable medical insurance due to pre-existing medical conditions.

"The Community Care Clinic is a lifesaver, both literally and figuratively," Morris said. "It is a wonderful community outreach program that deserves the support of everyone in the High Country." 

For more information on the Community Care Clinic, call (828) 265-8591 or visit