Hope Clinic delivering hope & health
By Sonia Duggan
A medical mission has been going on for the last four years in Collin County to meet the needs of individuals who are stuck in the middle — too young to qualify for Medicare, yet just enough above the poverty line to disqualify them for Medicaid.
Hope Clinic started this mission in McKinney in 2017, referring to itself “as a place where we look to share the love of Christ by providing hope and healing for the whole person.”
It began as a one day per week clinic to provide medical services for the 12% of residents without medical insurance, and since then it has grown to a full-time clinic that now offers a variety of medical services to all Collin County residents.
The journey for this nonprofit, Gospel-centered and based on Christian values, evolved in a holistic way, beginning with a small downtown McKinney church and a doctor.
“The Parks Church elders and a doctor in the congregation found a gentleman on the side of the road very ill and need of care,” said Hope Clinic Operations Manager Andrea Naff. “He had no insurance and didn’t qualify for Medicare and Medicaid.”
According to Naff, the more they started investigating the man’s situation, the more they realized that there were many others dealing with the same problem, so they became burdened to be a solution.
“After a lot of prayer and discussion, the physician said, ‘let’s start our own nonprofit – a health clinic and I’ll be the medical provider as well as the medical director,’” Naff said. “As Lord would have it, he was married to an immigration attorney.”
The doctor was Steve Twyman and the attorney, his wife Caitlyn Twyman, “felt led to step aside from her practice and start this clinic,” said Naff.
In 2016 a team of volunteers and partners assembled to start the journey. Hope Clinic of Garland, a medical mission started in 2002 at First Baptist Church in Garland, provided much needed wisdom and support for the group.
Caitlyn became the executive director, and Steve took on the role as medical director and provider. The clinic first launched at the Baptist Immigration Center in McKinney on Monday evenings employing a team of volunteers that would help set up and tear down.
“All clinical staff and administrative staff were all volunteer in the beginning,” Naff said.
Within a year, the clinic progressed to two days per week, then in September 2019 it was relocated to a building on the east side of the city providing the opportunity for the real growth to begin.
The building on Lamar Street provided the space for the clinic and multiple exam rooms so they quickly expanded their reach and services.
The Twymans have since moved on from their roles at Hope Clinic and will continue to fulfill their passion for mission work. Steve has had a heart for medical missions since he was a boy, according to Naff.
“He’s always been led that way so when we started the clinic and had them on (staff) we knew from the beginning it would be temporary,” she said. “They are leaving this summer to go to Cambodia, and he will be a provider there.”
In January 2020, Melissa Willmarth assumed the role of executive director after years of working in the corporate world and volunteering for other nonprofits.
“I know and greatly respect the founders of Hope Clinic,” she said. “When the opportunity came up to be a part of the clinic team, I knew it was where the Lord wanted me to be.”
The Hope Clinic now has a part-time medical director, Dr. Rusk, and a nurse practitioner, Tiffany Lowry, who is also the nurse manager.
Dr. Twyman has stayed involved as a volunteer and board member until he leaves for Cambodia.
“It’s been rewarding and fun to get to engage with our community, to try to partner and work together to meet the health and spiritual needs of our neighbors,” he said of his experience.
In addition to Dr. Rusk and Lowry, nurse practitioners and doctors volunteer throughout the month as well as medical scribes and professionals who can assist with pain management, immunology, pediatrics, cardiology and more.
“We have quite a crew, and of course the Lord has been in it and made it happen,” Naff said.
The clinic has a good relationship with the federally qualified clinic in Collin County, the Family Health Center on Virginia Parkway, said Naff, Medicare or Medicaid clients looking for care to be referred to the family clinic.
The primary population served at Hope Clinic are those 40-60 years old, of which half are Hispanic, says Naff. To qualify for service, patients of the Hope Clinic have to live in Collin County and have no health insurance. In addition, they need to meet the income guidelines — under 200% of the federal poverty level — anywhere from $25,760 for a single person up to $89,320 for a family of eight.
The impact that the clinic has made in such a short period of time is a blessing and its patient success stories are plentiful. Willmarth spoke about a recent patient who came to Hope Clinic on the advice of a friend.
“He had several chronic illnesses including diabetes, hypertension and COPD, and was in the process of applying for disability because he couldn’t work because of his illnesses,” she said. They were able to get him started on a treatment plan to manage his chronic illnesses, which meant biweekly follow-up and checking labs.
“Within three months, all of his chronic illnesses were under control,” she said. “He was then able to find a full-time job and get insurance. He cried at his last appointment and thanked each of us for helping him get his quality of life back.”
The clinic, located at 103 E. Lamar St., enrolls new patients Tuesdays at 2 p.m. Although no appointment is required, proof of address, income and photo I.D. are needed to fill out the forms and get enrolled.
Like many medical providers, the pandemic presented challenges, but Naff said they were able to transition to telehealth immediately. “We never had to close our door. We were able to have follow-up and new patient visits for telehealth.”
More recently, Naff said they’ve seen an influx of people that lost their jobs or have less pay as a result of the pandemic.
Medical clinics are now offered on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and two Saturdays a month.
They offer mental health counseling every Wednesday and Saturday; and a vision clinic once or twice a month.
“Then we have specialty clinic — physical and occupational therapy —on two Saturdays a month,” Naff said.
In July the Hope Clinic enrolled its 1,000th patient, says Willmarth, having offered those individuals “right at 5,000 free medical, optometry, counseling, and specialty appointments” since 2017.
“In addition, we have been able to provide them with free labs, medications, glasses and necessities like medical supplies, food, and personal hygiene products,” she said.
The clinic is expanding so that they can help even more residents. The executive director said they have leased 1,300 additional square feet
next door and are incorporating that space into their clinic, giving them 3,000 square feet to serve patients.
“This will double our patient rooms, allow for designated counseling, specialty care and volunteer space to give us better patient flow on our busiest days,” she said. “We are already on track to provide over 2,200 appointments in 2021 and our expanded space will help us double that number over the next two years.”
Until a few months ago, Hope Clinic was only serving McKinney, but its vision now includes “that all Collin County residents have access to quality, affordable medical care.”
“We have patients already from Princeton and Farmersville,” Naff said.
Donations and additional partners are always welcome as they rise to meet the needs of the uninsured in the county.
The clinic is supported by area churches and corporate partners. Those church relationships not only help support the clinic financially, Naff said, but they also provide supplies, such as personal care items for the “wall of fun,” a shelving unit stocked with necessities so patients can take whatever they need.
The nonprofit employs some paid staff, however, there’s plenty of opportunities to help out. Naff said volunteers are key in their mission, especially “medically trained people, translators and patient advocates who can talk and pray with patients at the end of the exam.”
Through clinic appointments, community partnerships, and now Spring and Fall Health fairs, Willmarth said Hope Clinic is building relationships and educating patients on healthy lifestyles, encouraging them, and connecting them with other resources they need.
“The need is great, and we are following the Lord’s lead to be available to serve as many patients as we can.”