Clinic Hopes to Cure Health Care Ills for Downtown Residents - 8 News NOW

Clinic Hopes to Cure Health Care Ills for Downtown Residents

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LAS VEGAS -- Many people without health insurance worry that a trip to the doctor could eventually bankrupt them.

Doctors say this is especially true for people living in downtown Las Vegas where many live in poverty and access to medical care is hard to find.

A new health clinic aims to target those problems by helping people sign up for health insurance and provide them with medical care.

The First Person Care Clinic has only been open a few months, but it is already making a big impact.

The non-profit, located on 4th Street, is helping people sign up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act and is treating people who have little money to spend at the doctor.

Inside downtown's First Person Care Clinic, many patients are getting medical attention for the first time in years.

Julie Smith has not had insurance in at least four years and worries each trip to the doctor could bankrupt her.

"Every penny I use I worry about sickness, and I'm really scared," she said.

The clinic aims to help a very underserved downtown community, targeting some of the areas worst health problems.

According to the clinic, 45 percent of its patients have Type 2 diabetes, 70 percent have hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure, and 28 percent have both conditions. Both conditions can cause severe health problems, if they are not properly managed. Both conditions are preventable.

"Nobody wants to see people suffering and going without care," nurse practitioner with First Person Care Clinic Kimberly Phillips said.

Phillips says it is tough to see people struggling, but the health providers here do what they can to make sure people get the care. They also work on educating people about making healthy choices.

"Most of us have felt like it is a calling. It is more than just a profession. It is an honor to be able to take care of people when they are at their most vulnerable," Phillips said.

The First Person Care Clinic has signed up many people for the state health exchange or helped patients get Medicaid.

One of those is Shannon Hennessy who is homeless and has been uninsured for years.

"If I go to the hospital with no insurance, even if they take me, the bill is going to be like a thousand dollars," Hennessy said.

Money has always been a problem for Hennessy, and she just broke her rib.

"The bills, really when you see them, you don't know whether to laugh or cry," Hennessy said.

Now, Hennessy and others like her know they will have coverage, and a doctor in their area of town.

People without insurance can go to the clinic and get help signing up for insurance between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Friday. The clinic is also offering free basic health screenings.

For more information on signing up for health insurance, go to nevadahealthlink.com.

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