Connellsville health center marks 20th anniversary
Continuing a mission begun in 1993 by the Rev. Eugene Ankeny, the Wesley Health Center in Connellsville will celebrate its 20th anniversary serving people from all over the area who are in need of medical assistance but who aren't covered by insurance.
Remaining the only totally free clinic in the area, the Wesley Health Center continues to stand as a symbol of a true Good Samaritan — welcoming hundreds from all over Southwestern Pennsylvania through its doors to receive quality, free care.
”We furnish insurance to the people who fall through the cracks,” WHC Executive Director Marilyn Weaver said. “We are not concerned with the salaries that people may or may not make. If they do not have insurance, then they are welcome here.”
To celebrate the anniversary, a special ceremony will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the center, which is located at 410 S. Pittsburgh St., and the public is invited to tour the facility and obtain information that they may need.
“We are actually going to start with a rededication ceremony and a ribbon-cutting,” Weaver said, adding that they are attempting to have the ceremony proceedings followed as closely to the original dedication as possible. “After that, we will have an open house and everyone will be welcome to tour the center.”
The center provides primary care, oral screenings — and now with the usage of its new retinal camera, retinal screenings, which are a benefit in detecting diabetic retinopathy.
WHC employs three part-time workers — a nurse practitioner, an office manager and a medical assistant — but all of the other care providers and the board of directors volunteer their time and talents.
Professional volunteers with the center include Dr. Frank Jacobyansky, Dr. John Ellis, Dr. Richard Cook and numerous nurse practitioners, dental hygienists and other health-care workers. In addition to the professional level of care, WHC works with professional facilities and groups to ensure quality care to its hundreds of patients.
“We have formed a collaborative effort with Adagio, Connellsville Counseling and Psychological Services, and Frick Hospital who has been doing our blood analysis for us for years at no cost,” Weaver said.
Weaver said that WHC sees patients who are 19 to 65.
“Most of our patients are working and are between the ages of 35 and 54,” Weaver said. “The average income is $13,000 to $14,000, and they cannot afford health insurance.”
Weaver said the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which began Oct. 1, won't affect patients' care.
“These people are going to continue to fall through the cracks,” Weaver said.
WHC continues to keep its doors open through donations, grants, United Way funding, Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference of United Methodist Churches funding, and help from private foundations and civic groups.
Marking the 20th year, the volunteers and professionals who make the facility operate look ahead to an extended future of helping those who need assistance in maintaining their health.
“I am very proud of the accomplishments realized and the plans forthcoming for the Wesley Health Center,“ Board of Directors Secretary Jennifer Miller said. “ Wesley Health Center has provided an imperative service for this community and the communities surrounding Connellsville for 20 years and will continue to do so with the support of the community and the hard work from our tireless volunteer executive director and our wonderful staff.”
Weaver said the facility will welcome any doctor from the area who can spare even one afternoon to volunteer.
“If a doctor could volunteer just one afternoon a month, it would really mean a lot to us here,” Weaver said, adding that doctors who help at the facility don't need to be concerned about malpractice coverage because WHS is a free-care facility.
WHC has welcomed patients from Somerset to Pittsburgh and all regions in between.
“I am so pleased to have such a great board of directors and such hardworking volunteers,” Weaver said. “This is a true show of faith in action. This is a representation of the mission for caring for those without health insurance, and we plan to continue.”
Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.