A year ago, Filippo and Alice Masciarelli didn’t just open the doors to Denton Community Health Clinic and wait for new patients.
They went looking for them.
Dr. Filippo Masciarelli goes twice a week to Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, to meet with people who may need care. The clinic accepts referrals from Denton County’s indigent care program and the Denton County Medical Society’s access program. The couple has reached out to managers of low-income housing to find residents and taken referrals from Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home. They have also stepped in to help Denton County MHMR clients in crisis.
“We have a close relationship with their crisis team,” Filippo Masciarelli said. “By law, they cannot keep following them, so they send the patients to us.”
In other words, they reach out to residents who have no “medical home” — an ongoing relationship with a primary care provider — and often aren’t likely to seek one for themselves.
“Maybe they won’t seek out care because they have no insurance, and they think they have to have money to pay for the care on their own,” Masciarelli said. “Or they don’t have access to transportation.”
In its community assessment last year, the United Way of Denton County found that more than 17 percent of adults and 10 percent of children in the county have no health insurance. One in 4 women giving birth in Denton County receives inadequate prenatal care. And between 2005 and 2009, the county saw about $713 million in unnecessary hospitalizations.
Although heart disease is the nation’s leading cause of death, cancer was the leading cause of death in Denton County in 2008, the group found. According to the Cooper Wellness/Cooper Aerobics Co., 80 percent of cardiovascular disease cases and 60 percent of cancers are preventable.
Masciarelli formerly had a private family practice in Denton. His wife, Alice, is a registered nurse and executive director of the clinic.
The couple helps patients obtain their medications from prescription assistance programs.
Some of the clinic’s expenses are paid for by the county, or Medicaid and Medicare. Other expenses are underwritten by the couple, who volunteer to help patients, or by community contributions.
“We’re pretty good at negotiating and finding stuff,” Filippo Masciarelli said.
But more is needed to meet the health care needs of some of the city’s most fragile populations, and that costs money.
“We need a caregiver — a full-time nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant,” he said.
The nonprofit clinic has set a goal to raise $100,000 in seed money for a full-time practitioner, which would help the program grow in its ability not only to serve patients, but to collect for its services, too, Masciarelli said.
A permanent medical home helps not only the patient, but the caregiver, he said.
“When you get to know your caregiver — when you see the same one every time — you have a relationship and you are able to talk more,” Masciarelli said. “The more information a patient shares, the more you know and can educate them, and be better able to care for them.”
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
DENTON COMMUNITY HEALTH CLINIC
What: nonprofit health care clinic
Address: 3537 S. Interstate 35E, Suite 218, in the Professional Office Building next to Denton Regional Medical Center
On the Web: www.dentonchc.org
Details: The clinic will have a holiday open house from 3 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6.