A new Aunt Martha's Health Center has opened inside Presence St. Joseph Medical Center to provide services for those who lack insurance or are under-insured.
Located adjacent to the Joliet hospital's emergency department entrance at Glenwood Avenue and Madison Street, the 4,500-square-foot clinic operates in partnership with -- but independently of -- the hospital, spokeswoman Jan Ciccarelli said. It has its own staff of physicians and nurse practitioners.
The goal is to get people who don't think they can afford medical treatment to view Aunt Martha's as their doctor's office, clinic manager Kelli Wall said. It's where they can go for routine primary, preventative, ob-gyn and behavioral health care services -- and lab tests -- without having to consider the expense first, she said.
"It's so important that people take care of their health," Ciccarelli said. "Prevention can make such a big difference. ... We want people to get medical treatment when then need it."
Many people who lack insurance or have plans that don't cover a lot will wait too long to seek care and that's when they end up at St. Joe's emergency room, Ciccarelli said. By that time, what might have started as a treatable illness has progressed into a dire situation, Ciccarelli said.
And those cases that are not true emergencies -- people come in because the hospital can't legally send them away -- can be referred to Aunt Martha's for treatment rather than taking time, space and resources away from patients who need immediate care, she said.
Patients who come to the clinic on a regular basis will have a doctor or nurse practitioner assigned to oversee their care, and pay only what they can afford, Wall said.
Each case is handled individually, she said, with payment on a sliding scale tied to the patient's income and insurance. Someone who has no income and no insurance might not pay anything, she said.
The new health center's hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Appointments can be made by calling 877-692-8686, but walk-ins are also welcome.
The center is part of the larger Aunt Martha's Youth Center organization, which also has facilities at 409 W. Jefferson and 311 N. Ottawa and later this year will open another new clinic on the site of the former Silver Cross Hospital.
Aunt Martha's began in 1972 in Park Forest as a drop-in center for troubled youth but has grown to become a health care and social service agency that provides such things as primary health and dental care, mental health counseling, child welfare, juvenile justice, prevention and youth development, according to its Web site.
It's funded through individual, group and business donations, local United Way chapters, and money provided by federal, state and county governments, the site said.