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Physician's Assistant Shelley Irving and nurses at People's Clinic in Morehead attempt to find Jade Hampton's vein for a blood sample. Jake has "rolling" veins and after four attempts, the staff decided to refer him to the hospital for his blood tests.

Spreading healthcare across the valleys

story by Morgan Lieberman

Pearl, 80, once crafted beautiful blankets for family members and never missed a stitch. Pearl now suffers from severe dementia and is confined mostly to her bed at her home in Menifee County. Treva, her daughter, provides constant care.

Routinely, Treva opens their door to Dr. Anthony Weaver and Physician's Assistant Shelley Irving from People's Clinic of Morehead. The two provide symptom management for Pearl as well as support for Treva as caregiver.

"Her mother is Treva's quilt," says Dr. Weaver.  "Everything is hand-stitched and she doesn't tolerate sloppiness."

Pearl is one of the patients the staff from People's Clinic see on house calls. The clinic, joined by NewHope Clinic in Owingsville, provides free medical services for patients who can't afford a primary care provider. With clinics and concierge services, health care is reaching far across the valleys of rural Kentucky. NewHope Clinic, directed by Dr. Weaver and staffed by Nurse Practitioner Julia Maness and PA Bill Grimes, opened in 2000.

The 1,500-person Owingsville community came together to renovate the building and upgrade machines. The clinic sees as many as 30 patients a day.

"We uncovered a lot of illness," says Julia. "It took time to funnel people into care."

Both clinics receive government and private funding. NewHope is backed by People's Bank of Owingsville, while People's Clinic receives contributions from several churches and individuals. Clinic staffs volunteer their services. Both clinics are open one day a week.

"Each time a needy person comes to the clinic for help and we are able to provide him or her with healing and caring. We do it in the name of the community," says Bill. He quotes poet Wendell Berry: "In health the flesh is graced, the holy enters the world."  

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PA Shelley checks Emma Funis's lymph nodes during a pre-op doctor's appointment at the People's Clinic. The clinic is open every Tuesday and is operated on a volunteer basis.

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PA Bill Grimes handles a prescription for a patient in the clinic test lab at New Hope Clinic in Owingsville.

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PA Shelley organizes prescription pills for her patient during a house call doctor's visit in Menifee County. Because of the epidemic of abuse of painkillers and other prescription medications, doctors must measure the quantities meticulously before handing them to the patient.

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Dr. Anthony enters the home of a patient in Menifee County. The sign "no flu shot, no entry" was made by the daughter of the patient to keep out unwanted germs.

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PA Shelley takes the blood pressure of her patient, Billy Frasier, at his residence in Menifee County.

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Dr. Anthony and PA Shelley begin their check-up on Pearl, a patient with dementia, at her residence in Menifee County. To receive treatment from the People's Clinic team, the patient must be referred to them by a doctor that states the level of hardship makes them unable to visit the clinic facility.

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Dr. Anthony does a strength test with his patient, John Hunt, at his residence in Menifee County. This was the first visit Dr. Anthony and PA Shelley made to Hunt's home.

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Dr. Anthony Weaver and PA Shelley share a moment of laughter during a patient check up at People's Clinic. They also work together at St. Claire's Regional Hospital and do concierge house call visits to patients every 3-4 weeks.

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Jade Hampton is the last patient to leave People's Clinic. The clinic is funded by eight different churches in the region, as well as individual donations.