Free clinics are volunteer-based organizations that provide a range of outpatient medical, dental, pharmacy and mental health care to low-income, un/underinsured individuals. Free clinics:
- Are a non-profit (501(c)(3) organization or are affiliated with one
- Use volunteer health professionals and may use some paid administrative staff
- Have no specific federal or state definition or regulation
Funding Support: Donations, small grants; some clinics have small patient co-pays.
Wisconsin Volunteer Health Care Provider Program – A state program that can provide liability coverage for licensed health professionals who volunteer their services to provide outpatient care at free clinics. In April 2014, Wisconsin Acts 241 and 344 became effective, amending statute 146.89 which authorizes the program. These acts authorized a few key changes:
- Program administration will move from the Department of Administration to the Department of Health Services.
- Clinic and non-profit sites will be responsible for credentialing providers.
- The current paper application process for registering volunteer providers will be replaced with an online registration and management system.
To assist volunteers in keeping track of their data: VHCP Log Sheet (PDF, 356 KB)
Resources for communities interested in developing a free clinic:
- National Association of Free Clinics - A membership organization that has resource publications on clinic start-up and job descriptions, helps free clinics order discounted and donated products, and maintains a list of many free clinics.
- Wisconsin Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, Inc. (www.wafcclinics.org) - A member association that supports, strengthens, and advocates for the uniqueness of the Wisconsin free and charitable clinics, the patients they serve, and the communities with whom they partner.
- Federal Tort Claims Act Coverage of Free Clinic Volunteer Health Care Professionals – Similar to Wisconsin's program. Clinics must submit an annual application to HRSA Bureau of Primary Health Care.
- HRSA Rural Health Outreach Grant Program – Federal program that offers competitive grants to support the development of new and innovative health care delivery systems in rural communities that lack essential health services. Applicant must be located in a rural area, must be public or private non-profit, and must include collaboration with at least two other community partners.