By Jessica Groover
In 2007, the Community Free Clinic in Concord turned away an average of 8.6 people per month. In 2008, that average reached 19 people per month.
As the economy shows few signs of improvement and unemployment continues to increase, the clinic has noticed more people without insurance seeking primary care. Those numbers are expected to continue to rise in 2009.
“I don’t think we’ve hit rock bottom on the unemployment numbers,” said Venetia Skahen, director of the clinic. “We always see a little bit of a delay. I figured by the first quarter of this year, we’d really see the impact.”
Because the clinic has two volunteer doctors work twice a week, it is limited by the number of patients it can schedule. As a result, the staff has to turn away patients and measures its demand by how many patients they are not able to see.
In September 2008, the average number of patients turned away rose to 44, but it dropped in October and November. The clinic began to see an increase again in December with an average of 23 people it could not serve.
Because the clinic does not have enough funding to take on more patients, it is maintaining its usual capacity, despite the higher demand.
Another local nonprofit group, Cooperative Christian Ministry, has also noticed a higher demand for its services.
In December 2008, the demand at the group’s food pantries increased by more than 100 percent, compared to December 2007.
The demand has risen so much that the group announced it will add two satellite pantries in the first quarter of the year. One of the pantries will be at West Point Baptist Church in Kannapolis, which has operated independently for 13 years but is now being taken on as a pantry for Cooperative Christian Ministry.
“West Point Baptist Church had that pantry for some time and was at risk of losing it in November because they didn’t have the support, so we stepped in,” said Ed Hosack, executive director for Cooperative Christian Ministry. “We have identified that neighborhood in Kannapolis as being a neighborhood of pretty significant need.”
Cooperative Christian Ministry has been fortunate to have plenty of food to supply all of its pantries.
In fact, the group had enough to distribute 5,000 pounds of food in the last three months to other food pantries in the county who could not provide enough food. These pantries were not associated with Cooperative Christian Ministry and could not provide enough food.
Hosack estimated the demand for food may continue into the summer. Until it drops, Cooperative Christian Ministry is confident it will meet the demand for food, thanks to the community, and it will provide food for other pantries if necessary.
“Cooperative Christian Ministry has just delivered its 2010 strategic plan, and we are actively implementing the strategies to meet these new demands,” Hosack said.
• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.