The Sacred Heart Community Clinic in Round Rock, Texas, had 6,300 visits last year, all of them from low-income, uninsured patients. Liz Burton-Garcia started the clinic nearly 10 years ago on the campus of St. William Catholic Church, where she is a member. Her sales background helped her drum up local support: Doctors donated their time, construction companies donated materials, and many others offered money and prayer.
The clinic now has five full-time staff members and 150 volunteers. To get care, patients cannot have health insurance and must demonstrate their financial need.
“Some of them lost their jobs,” said Wendi Baird, the clinic’s development director. “Some of them have fallen through the cracks and maybe work two or three part-time jobs and don’t have a full-time job with benefits.”
Sacred Heart does not accept any federal funding. That allows it to avoid onerous paperwork and wait times to get pre-approval to see new patients. Baird said the clinic relies on local grants and donors to stay in business: “Whenever we get a big donation, we’re always grateful for it, but we always go, ‘Oh boy, this means that there’s going to be a big need coming down the road!’ It’s like God always knows, before we do, what’s needed.”
Clinics that are willing to jump through government hoops can get funding to help care for the poor. The federal Community Health Center Program started more than 50 years ago to help medically underserved areas. Participating clinics must use a sliding fee scale, offer certain services, serve a particular patient population, and meet other operational requirements. The National Association of Community Health Centers reported last year that the centers served more than 29 million patients, including 14 million people in poverty and 1.4 million people experiencing homeless. Most patients were uninsured or insured through Medicaid. In fiscal year 2019, the federal government spent $5.6 billion on more than 1,400 community health centers.
Some community health centers are explicitly Christian. Hope Christian Health Center in Las Vegas received $693,021 in fiscal year 2019 to carry out its stated mission “to glorify God as we demonstrate Christ’s love to the Las Vegas community by providing excellent, affordable care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.” Beacon Christian Community Health Center in New York got about $2.2 million from the government last year. Beacon CEO David Kim previously told WORLD that despite the red tape, his clinic has a calling “from God to be a ‘faithful presence’ in that world, even as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were in theirs.”