Is it possible to receive health care in the United States for free? The easy answer to that question would be: no. Those who have health insurance thanks to their employer are fortunate. It’s also possible to buy insurance, but this can cost several hundred dollars per month.
In the 1980s there arose the romantic ideal among some young people to organize a health service for those who could not afford to pay. Because of such thinking, the Free Clinic was born, offering outpatient care to those most in need. Cleveland’s Free Clinic is located at 12201 Euclid Avenue, not far from Case Western Reserve University.
How does it work? Through a system of volunteers. The Free Clinic has a full-time staff of around fifty, but ten times as many volunteers. Among the volunteers are doctors, therapists, dentists, students, and retirees.
Who can benefit from this free health care? Individuals who can come to the clinic on their own and whose lives are not in immediate danger. (In life-threatening situations, one should always call 911). People come to the clinic with many different problems, including digestive problems, minor injuries, and venereal disease. Many people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, come to the clinic, seeking help with medical tests and free medicine. In addition to clinical care, the Free Clinic also offers mental health counseling and recovery programs. It’s also possible to have a tooth pulled, take an HIV test anonymously, or simply get free medical advice about living a healthy lifestyle.
The Free Clinic and the Polish-American Cultural Center have are encouraging Polish doctors to volunteer one evening a week at the Free Clinic so that they will be available for Polish-speaking clients who have no other way to receive health care. We hope that this suggestion will meet with a positive response and that many people in need will be able to access health care, for free and in Polish.

Ryszard Romaniuk

Forum, 12/2003