Picture Collier County as an hourglass. As affluent people continue to rise to the top and inhabit the area, the sand in the hourglass—which represents their needs— trickles down with more weight.
That means more people in the service industry are needed for the region to come full circle. The problem is most of these trades oftentimes pay below a living wage, making it difficult for many workers in Collier County to afford healthcare.
That’s where Neighborhood Health Clinic comes in. Founded in 1999 by retired dermatologist Dr. Bill Lascheid and his wife, Nancy, the privately funded clinic provides care to sick, working individuals who are at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Income Level and without insurance, just for the cost of a requested donation.
“Part of our mission is to be the safety net of safety nets,” says Leslie Lascheid, Neighborhood Health Clinic’s CEO and daughter of Bill (who passed away in 2014) and Nancy. “These are people who take a lot of great pride in working, but because pay is low … they can’t afford healthcare.”
In the last year, Neighborhood Health Clinic, which is staffed with nearly 250 medical experts and “hundreds” of non-medical employees or volunteers, has treated about 9,500 patients. Sixty-three percent of them have been Hispanic or Latino, 28 percent Caucasian, 4 percent African-American, and 5 percent identifying as other. Many patients are women ages 45 to 55, raising children and/or grandchildren, and working hourly positions in places like mini-marts.
The hospital buzzes with at least four translators each day to help visitors better understand their medical situations. Educational assistance is also tailored to a person’s cultural norms. For instance, when discussing healthier dietary options with a client, educators will suggest meal plans that include food similar to what one is used to eating and realistically has access to.
“For some of our patients, trust is an issue in their lives that they struggle with,” Lascheid says. But Lascheid has a message for those people. “If you’re in a position where you’re working hard and it’s just at the lowest paying jobs that are available—whatever it is— we have a diverse group here to help.”