When AmeriCares founder Bob Macauley saw a news report on the uninsured in Connecticut, he decided Fairfield County needed a free clinic. Not long after, the first AmeriCares Free Clinic was born. The clinic opened in the South Norwalk Community Center on Nov. 4, 1994, with 15 volunteer physicians.
Twenty years and hundreds of volunteers later, Macauley’s program is still going strong with four locations serving more than 3,000 low-income patients. Over the years, more than 23,000 children and adults have received $57 million in free health care services. The Norwalk clinic was renamed in Macauley’s honor in 2011 after his passing.
“It is so fitting that our first clinic is named for Bob,” said AmeriCares Free Clinics Executive Director Karen Gottlieb, who served as the first clinic director and the program’s only full-time employee in the early days. “It was his dream and determination that started this program two decades ago.”
Our clinics offer primary care services, including pre-employment physicals to help the unemployed get back into the workforce, and help patients obtain specialty care either on site or through local providers. More than two-thirds of all clinic visits help patients manage chronic diseases including diabetes, asthma and hypertension.
“You would think that much has changed over the years, but it really hasn’t,” Gottlieb said. “We are still helping Fairfield County residents without insurance, still relying on the compassion of volunteers and still counting on our partner hospitals and Quest Diagnostics for donated services.”
Nurse Mary Jacobs, a volunteer since 1996, said her work with the clinic has always been about helping her neighbors obtain quality health care they could never afford.
“The program is still true and rooted in its original mission despite growing in patient volume, size and need. Norwalk space has expanded, new clinics have opened, and yet we still do the same job for each patient that walks through the clinic door,” she said. “After two decades that is priceless to those who require medical care and medicine.”