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Impact Story

South Carolina Free Clinic Association

Closing the Gap in Access to Quality Care

Free clinics are a vital component of the South Carolina health care safety net – providing free care to thousands across the state who would otherwise go without.

About the Organization

The South Carolina Free Clinic Association consists of 40 free clinics throughout the state. These clinics operate 65 total sites and treated more than 40,000 uninsured patients in 2017. The Association provides technical assistance and educational opportunities to established free clinics and supports new clinic development.

About the Grant

In 2015, the Foundation provided a grant to the South Carolina Free Clinic Association to enhance access within specific gaps of care, as identified by the clinics. These gaps could include providing behavioral health, dental care, disease management, or prescriptions, among others. While these “gap grants" were beneficial to some clinics, others struggled because they really needed funding to support their day-to-day operations.

In 2017, the Foundation provided additional funding to the South Carolina Free Clinic Association to continue making grants to free clinics. Because of the lessons learned, free clinics throughout the state now have more freedom in how they use their grant money. Some clinics have used grants to continue the “gap” projects they had started, while others put the money toward general clinic operations.

Why it was Funded

An estimated 15 percent of nonelderly South Carolinians do not have health insurance. The free services provided by primarily volunteer health care professionals can improve patient care for those who may not otherwise have access to care.

Between 2012 and 2017, free clinics in South Carolina provided $510 million in services thanks to 1.7 million volunteer hours.

Project Results

In 2018, 38 member free clinics received grants, including:

  • Community Medical Clinic of Aiken County, which used their grant funding to provide more medications to patients and increase availability of appointments with a nurse practitioner.
  • Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic, which used grant funding to work on patient outreach, increasing patient visits by 89 percent and new patients by 48 percent.

Another impact of the grant funding to the SC Free Clinic Association is improvement in administration. As of 2018, 83 percent of free clinics have implemented electronic health records in their practices, increasing their ability to connect with hospitals, improve case management and manage patient population health data.