CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The timing seemed right for Patricia White -- she's accomplished many of the larger goals she had hoped to during her tenure at Health Right, and sees a vital future ahead for the county's free health clinic.
"We've sort of morphed over time, but always with an eye toward what the needs of our patients are, and what they want," she said.
White, 65, will retire as Health Right's executive director June 30. She has served as the clinic's director since its formation in 1982, and said Health Right's mission to provide quality health care to uninsured, underserved and underinsured West Virginians has remained constant.
"Interestingly, the mission of the clinic has not changed -- it was always designed to be a place to serve the uninsured and underinsured of the area," she said. "It was never limited to just Kanawha County."
Angela Settle, Health Right's clinical coordinator, will take over as director July 1.
White has been there from the clinic's first location in a small building beside St. John's Episcopal Church on Quarrier Street, to its current headquarters on Washington Street East, where it serves nearly 20,000 patients every year. The clinic has five nurse practitioners on staff and two dental hygienists, but according to White, the lifeblood of the clinic is the medical professionals who volunteer.
"Every dentist and doctor who works through Health Right is a volunteer," she said. "We couldn't function without this plethora of volunteers who enable us to see patients who need a cardiologist, an orthopedic surgeon, a urologist -- we're able to provide that because the medical community has always been very supportive of the clinic."
According to White, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which has expanded Medicaid coverage to nearly 90,000 West Virginians, was a huge step for providing the uninsured people Health Right serves with insurance coverage and health-care options. Health Right has three in-person assistors to help people enroll in Medicaid, and will continue to serve its regular patients who are newly enrolled in Medicaid under the expansion. The clinic has helped enroll more than 1,000 West Virginians in Medicaid since Oct. 1.
"There will always be people in need of health-care services who can't afford it, and I think what has happened with the ACA has been a wonderful thing, and a component I weighed when looking in to whether I would retire," White said.
According to White, her motivation and vision in 1982 were inspired by her upbringing, and the philosophy that has driven Health Right for 32 years is one she believes will remain true after she retires.