ST. MARTIN, MS (WLOX) - With more than 22 percent of Mississippians living in poverty, the need for low cost or free medical care is growing. The Bethesda Free Clinic is working hard to meet that need.
A half hour before the clinic opened Wednesday, people were lined up waiting. Since Bethesda moved from D'Iberville to a more visible location in St. Martin, the patient load has doubled.
Mary Buffington is the clinic manager. The struggling economy means more people need a helping hand.
"Most of our patients are folks that are working people," Buffington explained. "They just don't have enough insurance, financially they are not able to do the co-pay, so we're not talking about people who are not trying to do better. It's just tough."
Dr. Francis Selman is the only physician at the clinic. He doesn't see things changing.
"The need is tremendous and it's going to increase, I think, with health care reform coming," Selman said. "The numbers that we see support that."
"Our biggest need is from the medical community, doctors, dentists. If they could come here to the clinic, that would be great," Buffington said.
For the patients who come to Bethesda and use these medical services, it means one real thing to them: a chance to lead a more normal life without the stress of paying a huge medical bill.
One of those patients is Lori Brant, who suffers from diabetes. Bethesda has been a lifesaver for her.
"They actually have brought me down where I can actually function normally and it means a great deal to me to be able to get that kind of help and support," Brant said.
That support comes from people like Sandra McArthur, a retired nurse who volunteers at the clinic.
"The big difference to me is in knowing that when I leave the office each day that maybe I've touched somebody's life and given them something they will always have with them," McArthur said.
That something is better health.