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Muskego free clinic represents someone who cares, at no cost

It provides valuable medical services to those who can't pay

July 8, 2013

Muskego — The old town hall that once served early Muskego so faithfully is now providing a home for the new Eagle's Wing Free Clinic.

Just as pioneers helped each other, the clinic was started by local people who see their neighbors in trouble and want to help.

"It's something I think our community needs," said Joanne Peterson, a nurse practitioner at a low-fee health care facility who spearheaded a 21/2-year drive to found the free clinic.

The clinic inside the venerable building is now Thursday evening each week to people living in the area. It provides acute and chronic illness management, nursing assessment, health education, blood pressure screening, referral and community resource information as well as limited laboratory and X-ray services and some help with obtaining medicines.

Suburban concern, too

Peterson, of Muskego, said such services are needed by everyone, not just for those who are insured.

"I see so many people who have no insurance at all and not enough money to purchase insurance," she said.

Founders of the clinic have bumped up against the inevitable stereotype of people in the suburbs having no money worries. And that stereotype is hard to break, she said.

"But they should think about adult children who are not working and have no insurance because it's sky high," Peterson said.

Even young people can have debilitating conditions such as asthma and depression, she said.

But the Eagle's Wing folks did their homework before the clinic ever took off, said Jennifer Soika president of its board of directors.

Between 26,000 and 38,000 Waukesha County residents had no health insurance as of 2008 census data, Soika said. More than 8 percent were below the poverty level in 2010, she said.

"Our reaction to that is we need another free clinic in Waukesha County," Soika said.

While there is one in Oconomowoc and in downtown Waukesha, the Muskego, New Berlin, Mukwonago and even Brookfield areas have not been served until now, she said.

Clinic's purpose

The clinic isn't affiliated with any medical group, but has arrangements for tests with a laboratory that is associated with the Medical College of Wisconsin and Froedtert Hospital.

The clinic's main thrust is to help people manage chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, helping them get $4 prescriptions for medicines whenever possible, Peterson said.

Some might be able to afford their medicines, but cannot afford to visit their doctors for the necessary monitoring, she said. That's where the clinic help.

But it's also there for people who have minor problems such as heartburn, sinus infections, bronchitis and urinary tract infections. Minor injuries such as scrapes from falling off a bike can be washed and bandaged, but tetanus shots must be obtained elsewhere. If the clinic can't handle problems people have, they will be sent where they can get help, Peterson said.

People who just wonder if they have high blood pressure or high blood sugar can be tested and there are screenings for asthma and depression.

Right now, the clinic is staffed with a nurse and a nurse practitioner who can diagnose and write prescriptions. A doctor will either be there or be on call. All are volunteers. When the clinic gets busier, organizers want to have three nurses, a clerical person and a social worker.

The clinic is open from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays for those at least 18 years old with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For a single person, that would be an income of $22,980. A family of four would qualify with an income of $47,000.

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