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CHICAGO — People with heart disease and diabetes are most at risk with COVID-19 and that’s why it’s critical for patients to get the medical care they need for chronic conditions in this time.

But with layoffs and uncertainty, many more are turning to Community Health, located at 2611 W. Chicago Ave, a free medical provider in Chicago, where 85 staff members and 1,000 volunteers are working around the clock to keep people safe.

From the time a patient walks in, tape on the floor ensures distance, stations keep patients away from check-in and tape on chairs distances people so they are far enough away from one another, the providers at Community Health are doing everything to care for their patients in the world of COVID-19.

Stephanie Willding is Community Health’s CEO.

“Our role during this pandemic is to ensure individuals stay out of our emergency departments, which right now are very busy and overrun with this pandemic,” Willding said. “So our patients who have diabetes, hypertension, chronic conditions that require ongoing care and medications – it is our goal to continue to serve them.”

Volunteers like Mary Harrington say they are proud of the care.

“Now more than ever is when they need us,” she said. “I feel like we are serving the most vulnerable population.”

And when it comes to protecting against COVID-19, Harrington takes great care to as she goes home to her family.

“I put a separate outfit in the car for when I get home,” she said. “I change, I go right inside and take a shower. I change again and I also have everything prepared in case I feel like I am exposed here. It comforts me that I feel like I am doing everything that I can to prepare myself and protect my family.”

The clinic is providing COVID-19 testing but also meeting a growing need for care in devastating times.

“Community health has always been a place that anyone can come that does not have access to care. But it has become even more important during this pandemic as so many people have lost their jobs,” Willding said. “We’ve heard of these extraordinary number of individuals applying for unemployment. Those individuals have either lost their employer based insurance and have to go through a pretty lengthy process to get Medicaid, or maybe they can no longer afford insurance that they were purchasing themselves.”

Even with the uptick in demand, there is no downturn in those willing to help.

“We have nurse practitioners. We have physicians and nurses who provide our care as volunteers,” Willding said. “And I think that’s been one of the really incredible stories about Community Health is during this time of a pandemic when these volunteers are perhaps being called back to the hospitals or perhaps they are retired providers, like physicians who meet a high risk category, and need to stay home, they continuing to volunteer remotely.”

Community Health is providing e-medicine visits as well as in office care. And they have a pharmacy that has been busier than ever.

“Just last week we prescribed 21 percent more prescriptions last week than we had that same week the year prior,” Willding said. “And the reason we are doing this is we want to provide our patients access to all the medications they need during this stay at home order.”    

They are giving life sustaining medications and offering life altering care. 

“This is my passion,” she said. “I feel like the clinic gives so much more back to me than I am able to give to it.”

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