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LOCAL GOOD SAMARITAN CLINIC CELEBRATES 14 YEARS

A local nonprofit medical clinic, which has survived solely on donations and the generosity of others, recently celebrated 14 years of helping the Fort Smith community.

The Good Samaritan Clinic, 615 N. B St., celebrated 14 years of serving the community July 18.

In 2003, a group of concerned citizens, including Ramona Roberts and the late Dr. Kemal Kutait, got together and decided that they were seeing a need for medical care for members of the working class who were slipping through the cracks. They noticed that these families, that were either too large and unable to afford insurance or couldn’t meet the deductibles, were not receiving adequate health care.

“We wanted to provide medical care for the working people who could not afford health insurance,” said Roberts, a local real estate agent. “At the time, there was a huge need for that.”

Roberts approached Father Bill Wright, former rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fort Smith, and asked if the church might consider opening up a clinic to address those needs.

“I told her that we had neither the facilities nor money for this project,” Father Wright said, “but given St. John’s past involvement in community outreach, the good Lord would provide that if that was the direction we were to go.”

The Good Samaritan Clinic would go on to serve 70 patients on their first day in business. Currently, the Good Samaritan Clinic has 14,000 patients in the database and sees about 400 patients in a month.

Modeled after a nonprofit clinic in Memphis, the Good Samaritan Clinic was the first of its kind in the Fort Smith region. The nearest similar clinic is in Fayetteville, along with some others in Texarkana and Hot Springs.

And the Good Samaritan group does not plan on stopping their local expansion in the next 14 years. Rather, the goal is to expand throughout the region, said Patti Kimbrough, executive director of the Good Samaritan Clinic.

“One hundred percent of the funds stay right here and help our neighbors ... . Compassionate community care, that’s what I like to call it, ” Kimbrough said.

The nondenominational faith-based clinic is using a building given to them by St. John’s Episcopal Church of Fort Smith.

“Through their generosity, the people at St. John’s, this clinic became a reality,” Roberts said.

Good Samaritan also receives support from community churches and both Sparks Health System and Mercy Fort Smith. Good Samaritan also has an agreement with The Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine to help young medical students learn the fundamentals of being a physician on the job and give them volunteer opportunities.

Today, the Good Samaritan Clinic almost runs the gamut of treatments. Staffed by nine paid employees and many more volunteers, the clinic is able to offer medical, dental, optical, chiropractic and some pharmaceutical and counseling services. The clinic also does its own x-rays and blood draws.

Currently, it is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but Kimbrough is looking into being open on evenings and weekends in order to be more flexible for people who are working full time.

“The need is far greater than they have the capacity to serve,” Kimbrough said. “If we can keep non-emergency events out of their ERs and drive those patients here, we can establish a more long-standing patient relationship and care for them in the full continuum.”

But the range of services goes broader than the typical medical clinic. The staff, which Kimbrough described as above and beyond, recently held a cookout for the homeless community over the Fourth of July. They perform physicals for local schools and are even planning a cleanup day in the future.

″(We believe that) the wealth of a community is based on the health of a community. And that’s pretty much what we are,” Kimbrough said.

Many patients, such as Willy, are regulars. Willy is from Chicago and has nothing but good things to say about the Good Samaritan Clinic.

“Mouth can’t rest; I talk all day about this place,” he said. “They took care of me. They’re sweet people. I come here every day, and I sit and visit with them ... . I’m like a new man. I didn’t have no help or nothing and they let me in.”

“I think we (Fort Smith) have found our identity in being a strong medical hub,” Kimbrough said. “We are one of those places that really connects people to the heart of what the city really is, and that is caring for one another like a neighbor ... . I think it is very important that we are eccumenical in the way we run and help everyone.”

Qualification for the Good Samaritan Clinic depends on a sliding wage scale. It also depends on how many are in the household and other criteria. Anyone who qualifies is welcome to use their services.

Visit goodsamaritanfs.com or call 783-0233 for information, to make a donation or to volunteer.