The Outer Banks is renowned as a major resort area. Our small community of 33,920 permanent residents jumps to new record highs yearly in the summer, topping out this year in August at 138,805,084, according to the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. It may be hard to imagine in this demi-paradise that many residents go without basic health care. While our county produces massive wealth for the state, (about $2 million annually), the fact is that it’s a financially hard place to live. According to national statistics, the cost of living on the Outer Banks is higher overall in groceries, health, and housing, and only utilities and transportation dip slightly below the national averages.
Most of Dare County’s 33,920 permanent residents navigate a resort economy that is not only seasonal, but also costs more to live in year-round. In 2005, a County Health Assessment found that more 20% of the population of Dare County is uninsured, and 20% of the Dare County population amounts to about 7,000 people who are affected. That’s 7,000 people who have no access to primary health care besides emergency room visits.
The Community Care Clinic (CCC) of Dare County is a collaborative effort between Albemarle Health, Outer Banks Hospital, and Chesapeake Hospital to meet the needs of these 7,000 uninsured individuals.
Partnered with the Dare County Health Department, The Outer Banks Hospital, Project Access, N.C. Prevent Blindness, Chesapeake Imaging, Ryan White HIV Group, PORT Mental Health, and an entire volunteer board of directors, local doctors and nurses, the CCC provides services at significantly reduced or no cost to patients.
The clinic is entirely run by generosity, partnerships, and volunteers; nurses, doctors, and administrative personnel, who have logged over 600 hours of volunteer time. Tami Montiel is the only full-time, salaried employee, with seven part-time employees and 20 volunteers. Some of those 20 volunteers have been volunteering at the CCC since 2005, when the clinic first opened its doors. The CCC has served over 6,000 people since then, and records about 600 new patients every year.
The Community Care Clinic understands the frustration and enormous stress being uninsured can create for families living and working in Dare County. Tami Montiel, Executive Director of the Community Care Clinic, says the hardest part of her job is that people still don’t know about the clinic and its services. She wants the community to know “they would like to help alleviate some of that stress, creating a positive ripple through their patients, keeping Dare County tourism alive and WELL. That benefits us all!”
She is also proud to announce they have increased the eligibility by almost 300% to reflect the high cost of living in Dare County.
They have also simplified the registration process, and it is no longer only available on certain days, and instead is available whenever the clinic is open. They have volunteers happy to assist in the registration process, and even provide online registration. Volunteers of the clinic encourage residents to call the clinic, should they need help with registration. Volunteers also encourage folks to register now – Don’t wait until you are sick to register. Instead, register now, so services can be expedited when you need them the most.
The mission statement of the Community Care Clinic is simple, “The CCC of Dare provides basic healthcare, medication assistance, and wellness education for financially challenged, uninsured persons living or working in Dare County.”
To be eligible you must be between 18-64 years old, live OR work in Dare County, have no health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance, have less than $10,000 cash on hand or in the bank, and meet income standards.
The CCC provides: basic (non-emergency) medical care, specialty care referrals when possible, prescription drug access through voucher and prescription assistance programs, health education, interagency referrals, immediate referrals for mental health, preventative education, Prevent Type-2 Diabetes class, annual flu shots, one-time visit from ER discharge for follow up, and provides primary care to those who have no insurance. The CCC cannot provide emergency or urgent care, narcotics for pain management or any other controlled substances, or OB/GYN care. This helps to keep the overall medical cost down by keeping people out of the ER for basic primary care, and providing a valuable resource for the benefit of the entire community.
Montiel would like to specifically reach out to Hatteras Island, reminding residents that they have a satellite office in Frisco at the County Department of Health and Human Services building at 50347 Hwy 12, Frisco, across from the EMS station.
One Tuesday a month from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., with a great willingness to expand as needed, the volunteers of the CCC arrive to run the free clinic and dispense medication. They have a Spanish interpreter available, if needed. And while it is encouraged to make an appointment, walk-ins will be seen, during clinic hours, whenever possible. No appointment is needed to register, and they encourage you to call if you need help with anything at 252-475-9329.
Hatteras Island residents can be seen in the Nags Head office as well and Montiel says, “We want to emphasize we are available for all of Hatteras Island’s primary health care needs, medication assistance, and will assist with health wellness education. Although we are only down there one night a month for our clinic, we will always make sure they can be seen in our Nags Head Location. We can even provide transportation vouchers through Dare County Transportation if that is the barrier to them getting healthcare.”
The Nags Head Office is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., and volunteers are available to assist during those times with registration and information. The free clinic and medication dispensing hours at the main Nags Head building are Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. The Nags Head building also hosts an evening clinic like the one in Frisco. If you need to be seen, they will work with you to find a time and a place for you to be seen.
Tami Montiel says she wants the CCC to be “The yes building, because so many of our patients are used to being told no. If it’s something we cannot do, we refer them somewhere that can help.” The Nags Head office is located at 425 Health Center Drive, Nags Head, N.C., 27959, and the phone number is 252-261-3041.
The Community Care Clinic is always in need of donations and volunteers. One of the most challenging aspects of Montiel’s job is raising funds to operate the clinic, which was awarded the accolade “Dare County Chamber of Commerce’s Non-profit of the Year 2016.”
The largest support of the CCC is the $150,000 grant from the office of Rural Health, although that grant runs on a three-year cycle which has recently ended. As such, the clinic is focusing on community partnerships and local donations until they can apply next year. The clinic takes donations of all sizes, and wants to remind the community they are able to provide $5 worth of service for every $1 donated.
If you find yourself with more time than money and want to help, the clinic also always needs volunteers, both medical and nonmedical. They need medical doctors, physicians assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, nursing assistants, and phlebotomists. They also need nonmedical volunteers; office/clerical, maintenance, front desk support, food preparation, special event workers, and interpretation and translation. If you would like to donate or volunteer, call at 252-261-3041 or visit their website dareclinic.org.