TEXAS: Grants enable Austin clinic to serve 4,000 more needy patients

August 26, 2009

El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission in southwest Austin, Texas, has received grants from St. Luke's Episcopal Health Charities and other agencies that will enable it to serve 4,000 more underinsured and uninsured working poor patients. Melinda Rodriguez, director of development for the Wallace Mallory Clinic, said August 26 that the approximately $509,000 in grants will mean the 20-year-old clinic can finally add staff positions — a full-time resident doctor, nurse and medical assistant — of its own. Up till now the agency has mostly relied on volunteer doctors and medical professionals. But since receiving the grants -- $293,000 from St. Luke's Episcopal Health Charities; $125,000 from St. David's Healthcare Foundation; and $91,000 from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation -- all that should change soon, she hopes. The clinic provides patient care Monday through Saturday and "uses a holistic approach for helping people integrate into the community and improve their own situations," added the Rev. Victoria Mason, a deacon who serves El Buen Samaritano. "We also provide nutrition counseling and cooking classes and exercise classes … everything from aerobics and spinning to belly dancing and yoga — it's a wonderful variety!" said Mason. "We also have a food pantry, so people are coming three mornings out of the week to get food," she added. A Jubilee Center, the mission offers classes such as English as a second language, computer literacy and citizenship to about 600 students. It also provides GED courses in conjunction with the Austin Community College. Center students and patients are mostly Latino/Hispanic working poor, Mason said, adding that there is also a child-learning center for preschoolers whose parents are enrolled in center classes. "We're a safety net clinic, so people can get affordable medical care that otherwise might not be able to receive it. We try to make progress accessible to them — personal, social, economic progress." Rodriguez said the center has a staff of about 45 but "its history is very rich in volunteerism," which will continue after the staff doctor is on board. She hopes that will happen by October, she added. In 2008 the clinic served 4,223 patients who made more than 11,000 visits during the year. Fees are assessed on a sliding scale, depending on ability to pay, she said. Rodriguez said some families have remained patients for more than a dozen years. Describing one such family, she said, "The mother and father are working folk and they have gone through prenatal classes from their first child. They now have four and the oldest is 12. But they continue to come to the clinic because they feel welcome, and comfortable here. We pride ourselves on being culturally competent." El BuenSamaritano has received about $4,442,136 in support from St. Luke's Episcopal Health Charities since 1995 for the Wallace Mallory Clinic.