About the Cause
Founded in 1997, our mission is to facilitate access to health care for all, with a focus on the needs of the uninsured. With the help of over 100 volunteers and only 4 paid staff (and 2 are part-time), the Ithaca Health Alliance has created a sustainable model of community-oriented, community-driven solutions to the ongoing healthcare crisis.
The Ithaca Health Alliance operates the Ithaca Free Clinic, Ithaca Health Fund, and Community Health Education.
The Ithaca Free Clinic is widely known as the first free clinic in the US to offer both primary medical and holistic care through an integrated model. From 2006 to 2014, more than 8,000 patients were seen at the Ithaca Free Clinic through 21,000 visits.
The Ithaca Health Fund has leveraged close to a million dollars' worth of medical debt reduction for more than 2,000 low-income people. Advocates also help patients apply for prescription assistance and benefit programs. The Fund provides limited financial aid for those who qualify for tooth extractions, root canals, broken bones, emergency stitches, Chinese herbal medicine, and rabies shots.
The Community Health Education program offers free educational programming for the general public about health and wellness, health literacy, prevention, and self-care. More than 8,000 people have been reached through 400 educational offerings. We are committed to helping people learn about how the different factors affect health so that individuals can make informed personal choices about health care.
Who are your patients? Most of our patients work, but they don't receive employer-sponsored health insurance and make too much money for Medicaid.
What doctors/ prescribing providers volunteer at the Ithaca Free Clinic? Our Free Clinic Volunteer Physicians include former Medical Directors of Ithaca College, Cayuga Ridge and Peninsula Hospital Center (an affiliate of Northshore Long Island Jewish Hospital System). One of our physicians was the Staff President for two terms of Tompkins County Hospital which later became Cayuga Medical Center. Some of our physicians are retired with 30 to 40 years of professional experience. Others currently own their own practices, work in Cayuga Medical Center Emergency Department or in other Ithaca medical offices.
How many healthcare providers volunteer at the Ithaca Free Clinic? More than 40 healthcare providers including Physicans, Registered Nurses, Acupuncturists, Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Registered Dietitians, Social Workers, along with a Certified Nurse Midwife, Clinical Herbalist, Gynecologist and Shamanic Practitioner. (This list does not include our “Clinic Without Walls” referral accepting providers who give vouchers for Free Clinic patients to come to their private offices.)
Isn't the Free Clinic going to become obsolete soon? Won't everyone have access to affordable health care with the Affordable Care Act? The ACA will still leave millions of Americans uninsured. Our most common demographic, working people whose income is over 133% of the poverty level, who are not eligible for Medicaid, will be be hard pressed to afford to purchase health insurance, even with the subsidies available, without cutting into their budgeted expenses for rent, utilities, food and transportation. In addition, many of the holistic and therapeutic services we offer are not covered by insurance, and there are other services, such as dental care, that we have not yet addressed. The Ithaca Health Alliance always strives to find and fill the gaps in access to care.
How do I volunteer? Fill out a volunteer application at www.ithacahealth.org/ally or contact us if you'd like to receive an application by email or snail mail. Many of our volunteers were drawn to offer their time and talents to the Health Alliance because of their own experiences with the challenges of obtaining affordable care for themselves or a family member.
Is the Ithaca Free Clinic supported by government funding or insurance billing? As a Free Clinic, we must provide totally free services, and since we serve people who don't have insurance, we do not bill insurance. We do receive some funding from Tompkins County/City of Ithaca and periodically from the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency, which covers about 20% of our current budget. Our expenses have been reduced thanks to the FTCA Free Clinics program through the US Department of Health and Human Services, which provides free malpractice coverage for our licensed medical providers and social workers. We regularly apply to local, state and national foundations for grants. However, our first and most steadfast source of funding has always been donations from community members just like you!