- Michelle Craig
- Gennesaret Free Clinics Executive Director Rebecca Seifert.
A ceremony to honor all 2014 CVA honorees will take place Friday at Indiana Landmarks Center starting at 5:30 p.m. with a reception. The ceremony will begin at 7:15 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
Even as the US undertakes the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, there are pockets of people who still won't be able to access the nation's health care system: the homeless, the mentally ill, those on the fringes of our society. That's where groups like Gennesaret Free Clinics step in.
"It started in 1988," says Gennesaret Executive Director Rebecca Seifert, speaking in her tiny office in the basement of the English Foundation Building. "Our founder, Dr. Jim Trippi ... was volunteering at a soup kitchen at All Saints Episcopal Church at 16th and Central. The church allowed homeless people to sleep on the pews, and so one day he asked a gentleman, 'So where do you get your healthcare?' [The gentleman] said, 'Nowhere.' [Trippi] thought, 'Well, why am I dipping food when I could be putting my talents to use?' He got some of his colleagues together ... they went around to all of the local missions and shelters and said, 'Do you have healthcare?' And they said, 'No.' And so that's how it started."
"In 1990 we added the first mobile RV that goes out and gives care to people," says Seifert. "We've gone through three since then. I came on board in 1995. And in '96 we started our women's health initiative that provide early detection for breast and cervical cancer." In the late 1990s the clinics added dental care programs at some of Indy's family shelters, and in 2000 a Health Recovery program for homeless men at 24th and Central.
Their funding comes from "everywhere and nowhere," according to Seifert. In kind support comes from St. Vincent, IU Health, and Community Health Network.
On some Saturday mornings a mobile Medical RV heads to Roberts Park — the volunteers go mobile to help those who can't even begin to navigate the health care system. "Many of our patients don't know where to go for care, says Seifert. "They're either going to go to the emergency departments at hospitals — or not at all."
Gennesaret's 200-plus volunteers seem to be informed by a "there-but-for-the-grace-of-God" mentality. "One day at Roberts Park one of the docs recognized someone who was a former physician," remembers Seifert. "He suffered from mental illness and as a result, he found himself homeless."