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Local clinic wins statewide award

MONTGOMERY — The Family Doc in a Bus, organized a year ago to provide medical care to uninsured Dallas County residents, was named the 2009 Innovative Alabama Governments Awards recipient recently for government program innovation for local and county jurisdiction.

“We’re excited,” said Rhonda Abbott, interim director for the Dallas County Emergency Management Agency. “It was really moving to be there.”

This is one of the four categories for which the award is designated. Other categories are government program innovation for state/regional, digital government innovation for state/regional and digital government innovation local/county.

The award is given to innovative government programs that are non-technical and digital government solutions that are technology driven.

“There’s always shifts in funding sources,” said Dr. Monica Newton, founder and medical director. “We’re anticipating a shift in that. This award signifies that there’s enough value in it.”

This program was thinking outside of the box because many emergency management agencies do not use funding on free clinics, Newton said. Programs tend to have volunteers and equipment sitting in storage waiting on a disaster to respond to, instead of using those people and items year-round.

Newton sees this program as a home for the medically uninsured, reminding people that they do have a chart somewhere. The distinctiveness of the program is that it is a full-service medical office, she said.

“We are meeting an unmet need now instead of waiting for a disaster that may never come,” Newton said.

The program can function as a medical response corps in the case of a natural disaster, as well as the current function as medical care for the uninsured.

“It’s like they’re practicing during these clinics,” Abbott said.

Jeff Cothran, executive director of the Selma and Dallas County United Way called Family Doc in a Bus a ready-to-go program.

“The docs come in, are familiar with the equipment, the trailer and where stuff is,” he said.

The program started in September 2008 with a Weaver-Parish grant, United Way funding, an Alabama Department of Public Health grant, and with the help of the Dallas County Health Department and the Dallas County Citizens Corps Council, which has direct ties to EMA.

“With that money we were able to buy equipment to get this started,” Newton said.

UAB Selma Family Medicine partners with the program to offer physicians to aid members of the community in a clinic that is no cost to patients. The program has seen more than 224 people of the 5,000 uninsured residents during the more than 30 open clinics. Each person has received about $150 of services at no cost to him or her.

The Family Doc in the Bus is located in the Edmundite Missions building on Broad Street, but can also be run out of the trailer, which was the original location of the clinic. The facility has the amenities to run blood tests to check cholesterol, thyroid levels and liver functions and to test urine. The facility also has a portable EKG machine to check heart function.

“It’s been a great project and we hope to keep it going for a long time,” Cothran said.