Courtesy of John Curtis
On Oct. 3, more than 230 people took part in the third annual ¡ANDA! 5K Run/Walk to raise money for the HAVEN Free Clinic in Fair Haven — a student-run primary care clinic that provides free health care for adults in the community.
According to Elyssa Noce NUR ’17, director of student recruitment at HAVEN and co-director of the fundraiser, the clinic specifically targets uninsured adults living in Fair Haven, who are often undocumented. Noce said the event raised over $25,000, making it HAVEN’s largest fundraiser of the year. HAVEN faculty, volunteers and patients participated in the event, with HAVEN covering the costs of patients’ participation in the event.
HAVEN volunteer Mehida Alexandre MED ’18 said that patients working toward losing weight and reducing blood pressure were particularly encouraged to participate.
“These people have so many basic problems that can be easily fixed but not being able to afford [treatment] puts a strain on them and their families,” Alexandre said. “By having this clinic we are able to take care of their basic needs and it is such a great thing for the community.”
The HAVEN Free Clinic is partnered with the Fair Haven Community Health Center and Yale, and operates Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon out of the FHCHC, according to the HAVEN website. Alexandre said the clinic is staffed by more than 400 volunteers drawn from a number of Yale graduate schools, including the Yale School of Medicine and School of Nursing, as well as from Yale College.
The clinic also contains other departments that offer a variety of services, Noce said. These include a social services department that provides legal and financial advice for health care-related issues, an education department to help supplement the medical visits and a reproductive health department. Noce added that HAVEN also offers patients access to a behavioral health program to help them overcome depression.
The students who volunteer at HAVEN work in teams and provide care to patients under the supervision of a licensed physician or practitioner, according to Peter Ellis, faculty advisor to the students who run HAVEN. After assessing patients, the students report back to the physician on duty who plays “essentially a quality assurance role,” Ellis said. He added that there are about 15 to 20 physicians who supervise the students on a rotational basis.
Noce said the student volunteers see about 35 patients each weekend. In 2014, HAVEN staff saw around 315 distinct patients and conducted around 1,100 visits. She emphasized the importance of providing free health care to uninsured patients, many of whom suffer from underlying diseases that have remained undiagnosed for prolonged periods of time.
“Because the majority of our patients are uninsured and undocumented they usually haven’t seen a doctor in a really long time,” Noce said. “So they may have been living with hypertension for years without knowing because they haven’t had access to health care.”
Hannah Alter MED ’18, student director of HAVEN, said that in addition to providing comprehensive care to those who need it, working at HAVEN is also a learning experience for students at Yale, particularly those who are in health-related fields of study.
Alter added that Yale students who work at HAVEN benefit from interacting with the community and learning about its specific needs.
In January 2017, HAVEN will be moving its location from the FHCHC to the Yale Physicians Building, according to Alter. She said the move is taking place due to “insurmountable regulatory challenges” that were associated with operating out of Fair Haven.
However, Alter added that she could not speak about the specific legal constraints involved.
Robert Alpern, dean of the Yale School of Medicine, said the move is the consequence of “complicated federal laws,” but did not go into detail.
The HAVEN Free Clinic opened in November 2005.