Crediting her work to a “servant’s heart,” Rebecca Farris Allen, executive director of Community Health Clinic of Hardin and LaRue Counties, believes there’s more to her role than just a job.
“I feel it’s like an opportunity to be a missionary here at home,” Allen said.
Several years ago, when her father-in-law was on a ventilator, Allen became aware of how important nurses were. She pursued that occupation and worked for a little more than 13 years at Hardin Memorial Hospital.
“Emergency room was probably closest to my heart,” Allen said, explaining she often wondered where some patients would go for follow-up care once they were released.
At the time, Allen had heard there was a community clinic somewhere in Hardin County, but she didn’t know anything about it.
After a stint as chief nursing officer in Hart County she saw an ad for the position at Community Health Clinic and applied. She began working at the clinic in late November 2011.
Having a nursing background, Allen said, is an advantage in her role as executive director because she understands the needs of the patients and can jump in to volunteer in that capacity when needed. “Her master’s in business administration comes in handy, too.
“This is very much like running a physician’s practice or clinic,” she said.
The Community Health Clinic is a charitable facility that provides basic health care services to uninsured, poor residents of Hardin and LaRue counties. Only five staff members are paid employees, with only one who works full time.
Allen is one of the part-time employees, but she said she never stops working at her goals for the clinic.
Additionally, 16 to 20 volunteer health care providers and 50 volunteer nurses, tech and support staff provide services. Allen, a Colorado native, said she is grateful for the volunteers and feels “blessed” to have their help.
While changes are coming into effect in the field of health care as part of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, Allen has set a goal of taking the clinic through those changes, surviving and overcoming them.
Despite the possibility the clinic might lose some patients because of the new law, the clinic still will be essential, Allen said.
“There will always be a need for charitable care,” she said.
Regardless of the new laws, dental is not included in changes in coverage, but basic dental care is offered by the clinic. Allen would like to see improvements in that component of the clinic, which uses another facility.
“We really need our own site and our own equipment,” she said.
One drawback that could result from the changes is a cut in funding from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which provides $70,400 each year.
Fundraising is an important aspect of Allen’s job and one she takes seriously. During her first year heading the clinic, fundraising reached $48,000 surpassing the goal of $40,000. Last year, the goal of $50,000 was exceeded when $108,000 was raised for the clinic.
Maureen Denham, clinic office manager, said Allen’s connections in the medical community have benefited not only fundraising efforts but in finding volunteers.
“She’s brought a lot of connections we didn’t have before,” Denham said.
Additionally, Denham said, Allen’s medical background gives her useful insight for her role.
“She understands the need to help people who are less fortunate than we are,” Denham said.
To address those needs Allen has on her wish list several things for the clinic, including more volunteer providers, more funding to create full-time employee positions and a nurse practitioner.
“We are in dire need of pharmacists,” she said.
Better health, Allen said, translates not only to patients being able to work.
“If we keep them healthy we can keep them out of the hospitals and out of the graves,” Allen said.