Will-Grundy Medical Clinic: a steady, community-supported presence for nearly 30 years

3/9/2017, 6 a.m.
The Will-Grundy Medical Clinic has been serving residents in need of medical and dental services since 1988.
Residents participate in the exercise class everyday at the Will /Grundy Clinic. Photo credit: Will /Grundy Medical Clinic

Presidential administrations come and go but the objective of the Will-Grundy Medical Clinic has remained the same for nearly 30 years.

Founded in 1988, the organization which maintains clinics in Joliet and Morris has kept a steady focus on providing medical and dental services for residents around their two-county coverage area who don’t have access to health care.

The clinic, which recently held its 29th annual dinner fundraiser, is 100% donor supported said director Shawn West.

“People often confuse us with the health department but we don’t get state or federal funds,” she said. Instead the clinic relies on 3 fundraising events throughout the year as well as two mail campaigns. In addition to being a United Way agency, West said that the clinic also applies for grants and receives support from other non-profits, churches and its partner hospitals including Presence St. Joseph, Silver Cross, Adventist Bolingbrook and Morris Hospital.

“We have been able to survive because of the generosity of donors,” said West. “If not for those donors, we would not be here.”

The organization does a tremendous amount of good with their relatively small budget of $500,000. West said that the clinic employs about 13 full-time staffers, 350 volunteers and provides about $10 million in medical and dental services to about 1,000 residents each year.

There work could become even more essential given the current unease, and uncertainty surrounding health care in the U.S. and talk of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act which has by some estimates provided health care for 20 million Americans who previously were not covered.

“It’s a very challenging time for health care right now and places like the clinic are needed now more than ever,” said West.

In addition to the looming possibility that citizens could lose coverage if the ACA is repealed, West said that residents have sought out the services of the clinic who have found themselves suddenly unemployed or in a transition period between insurance coverage.

“People never know when they may need the services of the free clinic,” she said.

Since she became director at the end of 2013, West said that the clinic has reinstated well-woman services that focus on women’s health care needs, as well as programs for the prevention of diabetes and lifestyle coaching that provides information about diet and exercise. In addition, the clinic provides 5-day per week exercise programs which include Zumba classes. West also noted that the clinic was collaborating with the University of Chicago on a study of hypertension.

“We’ve added quite a few programs, and we continue to partner with organizations across Will and Grundy Counties,” she said. West said that the clinic will continue to work to provide services for those most in need which she said is a healthy sign for Will and Grundy Counties.

“A thriving community is a community that has a very strong safety net,” she said.