OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. – Bethesda Free Health Clinic, from its Ocean Springs home, is offering community members free healthcare, basic dentistry and health education, regardless of residency, insurance or income.
The clinic, at 6912 N. Washington Ave., has proudly served more than 14,000 patients from Jackson County and beyond, Executive Director Mary Buffington said, even from as far away as Japan.
The clinic receives no state or federal funds. “We depend entirely on the community,” Buffington said.
The clinic’s medical unit operates much like an urgent care facility.
“We are never going to be your personal physician,” Buffington said. “We just hold you up until you can either get in to see your physician, or, for the working folks … meet your deductible or copay.”
Since dentistry is such an expensive segment, the clinic is currently only able to offer basic extractions. One local dentist comes in once a week, and another comes in every other week to perform those services.
Another important service is health education.
“Mississippi is number one with diabetes, hypertension and obesity,” Buffington said. “We teach people how their lifestyle affects those diseases. We teach a lifestyle that makes it easier for you to feel better.”
Bethesda received a $20,000 grant from the CVS Health Foundation, in partnership with the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. That grant supports the work of a nurse educator, who provides patients with information on diabetes, high blood pressure and general health education, including nutrition, exercise and stress management.
The clinic’s mission, Buffington said, is “to keep our community as healthy as possible.”
Bethesda is open Monday-Thursday, with one physician on site every day.
“If you walk in our doors, our goal is for you to be able to see a physician and us help you as much as possible,” Buffington said.
All of the physicians volunteer their time, and the medical director is Dr. Francis Selman, a well-known retired surgeon.
“We have some very highly qualified physicians,” Buffington said.
She said the clinic is “extremely important” to Jackson County.
The clinic opened in d’Iberville in March 2011 but moved to Jackson County in 2012.
“Ocean Springs has been wonderful to us,” Buffington said. “A lot of our volunteers come from Ocean Springs, and most of our doctors come from Ocean Springs, so it’s been very welcoming, and we can use all support.”
Locals have been helpful to the clinic, but the clinic is returning the favor through its services.
“I think that we are extremely important to the working folks of Jackson County,” Buffington said.
Monetary donations are always needed at the clinic, as well as volunteers.
Buffington said she can use anyone in the medical field, clerical and administrative help, and just about anyone else.
“Almost any profession, if you’ve got an hour or two, I can use you,” she said.