Fort Worth Clinic Provides Access For Those In Need Of Health Care

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Dental assistant Karen Medina prepares before the start of a free dental clinic at the Mercy Clinic in Fort Worth. Mercy Clinic provides health, dental and prescription services to uninsured patients.

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Life and Death in Fort Worth 76104

People using the Fort Worth zip code 76104 on average won’t see their 67th birthday. What is the cause of the lowest life expectancy rate in Texas? What can we do to help? Read the Star-Telegram survey:


Lea Rodriguez was ill for over two weeks with the flu, barely getting out of bed and missing an entire Christmas season with her family because she was so sick.

Eventually, Rodriguez’s family became so worried about her illness that they gave in to their requests for her to go to a walk-in clinic. Rodriguez had pneumonia, the doctor told her, and she had waited far too long to see a doctor, the 44-year-old recalls.

Rodriguez had delayed her visit to the doctor because, as an undocumented immigrant to the United States, she was not entitled to any government health insurance programs, and because she didn’t have a green card, she couldn’t legally get a job that could provide her with insurance that could help pay for her medical care.

Today, almost 10 years later, Rodriguez still does not have health insurance, but she does have a free option for where she can get her primary care: Mercy Clinic, the small, no-frills, free health clinic that operates out of an old house in the parking lot of Travis Avenue Baptist Church.

Rodriguez and his family are among hundreds of Fort Worth residents who do not have health insurance and have no extra money to pay for their health care out of pocket. Mercy Clinic is part of a small network of clinics that will treat patients without health insurance free of charge.

Now the clinic is eager to build a new, larger clinic on the land where the old Berry Street theater is currently located.

Peggy Leitch, executive director of the clinic, said the next step is a feasibility study so that the leaders of the nonprofit can determine the best plans for the space. Existing plans for the clinic would provide for 15,000 square feet of space, compared to the 1,200 square foot house that volunteers and patients currently use.

Since Mercy Clinic opened in 2013, it has been providing free health and dental care and free prescriptions to anyone who needs it. Initially, the clinic was intended for residents of zip code 76110, where the clinic and church are located. But after UT-Southwestern research and a Star-Telegram investigation found that residents of the nearby 76104 zip code had the lowest life expectancy in the state, they expanded to serve that area as well. .

The clinic continued to provide an option for the Rodriguez family, who would have few other places to receive care if it did not exist.

Last year, Rodriguez’s husband had pain in his abdomen and had difficulty using the bathroom. Due to his family history of cancer, Rodriguez begged her husband to go to the doctor. Eventually, Rodriguez relented and got a free colonoscopy at the Mercy Clinic.

The test came back abnormal, so Mercy Clinic providers referred Rodriguez’s husband to Project access, which helps pay for medical care for people who need surgery but don’t have insurance. The free surgery allowed Rodriguez’s husband to have several cysts removed from his colon, his wife said.

These precancerous cysts would not have been identified without the free screenings offered by Mercy Clinic.

After leaving Mexico for the United States, Rodriguez said she and her family had no information on where to get medical care or how to pay for it.

“It’s so expensive. Many times we feel sick or something is worrying us, but we think “I don’t have money, I don’t have insurance,” Rodriguez said.

Undocumented migrants are not eligible for health insurance through Medicaid, the joint state-federal health program that pays for health care for very low-income people in the United States. Affordable Care Act Market. When the Rodriguez family moved to Fort Worth, her husband was the only one with a green card, meaning he was the only one who could legally work. But the income he earned from construction was not enough for the family to buy a private plan and it was not enough for them to pay for medical care in cash, Rodriguez said.

Before the Mercy Clinic opened in 2013, Rodriguez and her husband avoided all but the most urgent doctor visits, such as when she had pneumonia. She estimates that she went six or seven years without HPV, Pap tests and other routine screenings that are traditionally part of a regular annual check-up.

Now Rodriguez and her husband both have green cards, and Rodriguez works part-time at Travis Avenue Baptist Church. But even with green cards and jobs, health insurance remains too expensive for the couple, making Mercy Clinic the best option for preventative care. Rodriguez’s children received partial coverage through a federal program for children who do not qualify for Medicaid. As his eldest son did not complete this program, he also goes to the Mercy Clinic for primary care while studying civil engineering.

Mercy Clinic has been a blessing to their family, said Rodriguez, as the staff are familiar and welcoming to them.

The staff “feel more than friends,” Rodriguez said. “They feel like family here.”

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Ciara McCarthy covers health and wellness as part of Star-Telegram’s Crossroads Lab. The position is funded with assistance from the Morris Foundation. She came to Fort Worth after three years in Victoria, Texas, where she worked at the Victoria Advocate. Ciara is focused on providing people and communities with the information they need to make decisions about their lives and well-being. Please ask your questions about public health or the health care system. Email [email protected] or call or text 817-203-4391.


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