PLATTSBURGH - When people are in need, Community Link Mobile Health is there.
The nonprofit organization has been providing general medical services for Clinton County for the past14 years - the only mobile diagnostic and treatment clinic in the region.
Bonnie Yopp, a licensed nurse practitioner, has been involved with the organization since it started in 1996 and today serves as executive director. In that time, the "medical office on wheels that focuses on adult health," as Yopp describes it, has seen many changes.
"We started with an old school bus that had been used for a medical clinic in Vermont," recalled Yopp. "When you looked at it from the outside, it needed a hell of a lot of work."
The organization's board of directors invested the money and the mobile clinic was put into service. In fact, the bus served the community well until it was retired three years ago.
"Thanks to a generous grant through Excellus BlueCross, we got the RV we have now," said Yopp. "We went from getting three or four miles on a gallon of gas to about 10 miles on a gallon."
The upgrade saved the mobile clinic several dollars on its bottom line, helped it expand its territory. The clinic branched out from its regular stops in Clinton County - which include Plattsburgh, Peru, Saranac, Morrisonville, Keeseville, Mooers, Altona, Champlain and West Chazy - to places like Au Sable Forks in Essex County and even Burke in Franklin County.
As the economy has seen trouble in recent years, the need for Community Link Mobile Health's services have only increased, said Yopp.
"As the economy gets worse, we get busier," she said. "And, our main focus is to get anybody into health care that hasn't been able to because they've lacked insurance. Two-thirds to three-quarters of our patients have no insurance."
The cost of visiting the mobile clinic is typically less than that of a traditional doctor's office visit, she said.
"An office visit in Plattsburgh can cost anywhere from $65 to $120. Some people can't afford that," said Yopp. "Our office visit is only $20. We take care of all those people out there who have stopped health care because they didn't have insurance because they couldn't afford it."
The mobile clinic also has a prescription assistance program for those who have no prescription insurance to help them get their medications.
"We sit down with them and try to see if we can give them free or low-cost medications through the drug companies," Yopp explained.
The cost of operating the mobile clinic is able to be kept down because Yopp is the only paid staff member, she said. The clinic relies on volunteers that range from those handling medical billing to legal work. Even the clinic's medical director is a volunteer.
"That saves us thousands of dollars," said Yopp. "Thank God for volunteers."
However, the clinic also relies heavily on grants for which Yopp applies and support for fundraisers like their upcoming spring dinner.
"Big fundraisers like this help a lot," said Yopp.
The chicken and biscuits dinner will be held this Saturday, April 10, at American Legion Post 20 on Quarry Road. Entertainment will be by Barbie and the Golden Notes. The cost is $7 for adults and $4 for children younger than 12. Take-outs will be available.
For more information about the dinner or the Community Link Mobile Health, contact Yopp at 561-3566.