West Virginia Health Right, Inc. (WVHR) was founded in 1982, by a small group of physicians and nurses who recognized the need for a source of ongoing health care for the uninsured living in West Virginia. Initially, service was provided mostly to homeless people at Manna Meals, a local soup kitchen. After a few months, the clinic was moved to Covenant House, where it shared space with other services for the homeless. The clinic operated two nights per week and was staffed by a rotating volunteer group of approximately 12 physicians, 30 nurses and 15 receptionists.
Over the years, the clinic's patient load has continued to grow at an accelerated pace. By fiscal year 1988, WVHR was providing medical care to more than 2,600 needy patients. In addition, total patient visits increase from 500 in FY 1982 to more than 8,600 in FY 1988. As the demand for the clinic's services increased so did its pool of volunteers. By FY 1988, more than 200 individuals, including 65 physicians, were offering their time and skills at Health Right.
Operating as a 501(c)(3) organization, WVHR provides free medical services to individuals whose income is below the federal poverty level and who are without private insurance or Medicaid. Patients served at WVHR include homeless people, the elderly, the working poor and the unemployed who have exhausted their benefits. Over the past year, WVHR's fastest growing population is individuals who previously had Medicaid coverage. In age, they range from infants to the elderly, with the greatest majority being between 20 and 59 years old.
WVHR does not duplicate the services of any other medical provider. Among the services WVHR does provide are: primary health care services, including medications; diagnostic laboratory services; preventative health care services; and patient education services designed to maintain healthy individuals and a healthy community. Diagnostic x-ray services are provided off site through an arrangement with Charleston Area Medical Center. Dental services are provided via an arrangement with the WVU School of Dentistry. Psychiatric services are provided on-site by the WVU School of Psychiatry.
WVHR operates on the idea of maximizing volunteers, donations and community support. Funds for the clinic are provided by the WV Department of Health and Human Resources- Division of Health, United Way, foundations, churches and individuals. Pharmaceutical companies, area hospitals and private practice physicians donate medicine to the clinic. An essential component of the high quality care offered at the clinic is it volunteer staff which now totals more than 300 individuals. These volunteers include physicians, therapists, nurses, pharmacists, medical technicians and office personnel. Each volunteer works at WVHR for at least two to three hours a month.
There is no charge for the services provided either on-site or off-site. In addition, there is no charge for the medications dispensed. Patients are encouraged to donate by volunteering at the clinic performing housekeeping, grounds keeping or office duties.
WVHR's significance to the community as a source of primary health care for the needy is evidenced by the clinic's encounter information. During fiscal year 1997, WVHR provided free diagnosis and treatment to more than 8,000 patients in more than 27,000 clinic visits. In addition, WVHR dispensed more than 75,000 free prescriptions valued at $3.0 million (Average Wholesale Price).