NAFC History

History of the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC)

The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics was founded in 2001 and incorporated in the State of North Carolina originally under the name of the National Association of Free Clinics.  In 2001, a group of dedicated Free Clinic Supporters and Executive Directors joined together to form an Association that would work on behalf of the 1,200 Free Health Clinics who were serving the working poor and uninsured of America.  These clinics utilized volunteers and donations to provide health care to those who had no access to care. 

Free and charitable clinics are safety-net health care organizations that utilize a volunteer/staff model to provide a range of medical, dental, pharmacy, vision and/or behavioral health services to economically disadvantaged individuals. Such clinics are 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, or operate as a program component or affiliate of a 501(c)(3) organization.

Entities that otherwise meet the above definition, but charge a nominal/sliding fee to patients, may still be considered free or charitable clinics provided essential services are delivered regardless of the patient's ability to pay.  Free or charitable clinics restrict eligibility for their services to individuals who are uninsured, underinsured and/or have limited or no access to primary, specialty or prescription health care.

From 2001-2007 the National Association of Free Clinics was primarily run by a volunteer Board who met twice a year. In 2007, the Association hired its first full time Executive Director, Nicole Lamoureux.  From 2007-2009 the Association had one employee and has since grown to currently have three employees.  Additionally the budget of the Association has grown from 75,000 in 2007 to 1.4 million in 2013.

In 2009, the Association saw a rapid growth of staff, funding and recognition due to a partnership with television personality Dr. Oz.  The NAFC and the Dr. Oz Show joined together to hold a Free One Day Health Clinic in Houston, Texas http://www.doctoroz.com/press/dr-oz-rescue where 1,800 uninsured Texans received health care and connection to follow up care. This clinic was filmed and turned into a one-hour television show that discussed the uninsured and the important role that Free Clinics play as a part of the nation’s safety net. 

Immediately following the airing of the Dr. Oz special, the NAFC was featured on Good Morning America, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News.  This increased press exposure helped the Association to tell the story of Free Clinics and allowed the Association to hold additional one day Free Clinics in other cities across the country.  To date, a total of 12 C.A.R.E. (Communities Are Responding Everyday) Clinics have been held, where a total of over 15,000 uninsured people received free medical care and were connected to local area resources.  This was made possible through generous donations and sponsors and with the help of over 13,000 volunteers.

As the country discussed health care reform and its implications for and on the uninsured, the NAFC and their members actively voiced their thoughts and opinions, trying to educate Congress, the Press and the Public about the plight of those who have no access to health care.  The NAFC Executive Director became a regular guest on television and radio, and was often quoted in print media discussing the important role that clinics play in America’s safety net. 

In 2011, the NAFC officially changed its name from the National Association of Free Clinics to the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, expanding its membership base to include those clinics that serve the uninsured and medically underserved with a low cost sliding fee scale. 

One of the most common misconceptions about how the United States will look after the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is that there will no longer be a need for Free and Charitable Clinics to continue to provide charity care as a member of the safety net.  In fact, many are surprised to hear that even after full implementation of the ACA, there may be as many as 26 million people who are still without access to health insurance.

While Affordable Care Act is a first step towards access to health care for some, it is not a complete solution for primary care and with respect to dental care it leaves a great hole in care.  Until effective reforms can be implemented, there are people in communities throughout this nation who are standing in the gap and filling the need as best they can every day. They are the men and women who provide their services at more than 1,200 Free and Charitable Clinics across the country, as well as at other safety-net health care providers.

While access to health care and dental care will surely be used for political gains, those of us associated with Free and Charitable Clinics will continue doing the work for which we wish there was less demand. Our members have been dedicated to providing quality health care since the 1960's and we are going to continue in this important health care role until every American has the access to care that they deserve.

NAFC Historical Timeline

2001-2006

  • NAFC founded and incorporated in North Carolina
  • NAFC elected first Board of Directors
  • NAFC worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) to establish Guidance for Industry Prescription Drug Marketing Act — Donation of Prescription Drug Samples to Free Clinics
  • NAFC worked with the Skirball Foundation to provide grant funding to rebuild /build Free Medical Clinics that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina
  • NAFC established a partnership with Aidmatrix to provide donated produced to Free Clinics

2007

  • NAFC hired its first full time Executive Director
  • NAFC expanded operations to include partners such as Henry Schein Medical, AmeriCares, Invacare Supply Group, AstraZeneca, VitaminAngels and Direct Relief International to provide donated and discounted supplies to Free Clinics.
  • NAFC and Aidmatrix were recognized by The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and won the 2007 Supply Chain Innovation Award.

2008

  • NAFC established its first headquarter office in Alexandria, VA
  • NAFC established its first expanded web presence and resource library for members www.freeclinics.us
  • NAFC developed new Association logo
  • NAFC established a definition for "What is a Free Clinic?"

2009

  • NAFC partnered with Dr. Oz to hold a one Day Health Clinic in Houston Texas
  • NAFC Featured on The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, MSNBC to discuss the importance of Free Clinics and their role as members of the safety net caring for the uninsured
  • NAFC added an additional staff member
  • NAFC held three more Large Scale Free Health Clinics in Little Rock Arkansas, New Orleans Louisiana and Kansas City Missouri.
  • NAFC participated in a briefing on Capitol Hill about Free Clinics, our history, our vision and our lack of coverage in any of the pieced of legislation.
  • Association featured in USAToday article “Free Clinics Fill Medical Void”

2010

  • NAFC Executive Director invited to be a member of the faculty for the National Congress on the Uninsured to discuss Free Clinics and our role after Health Care Reform
  • Association Featured in Parade Magazine in an article entitled “The Nation's Biggest Free Clinic”
  • Association featured in The Fiscal Times article “Free Health Clinics: America's Best-Kept Secret?”
  • NAFC provided the Congressional Research Service information on Free Clinics and what we do on a daily basis to be given to Congressional Offices when they ask health care reform questions
  • Increased NAFC’s discounted product line from 35,000 items to 293,000 discounted items through Henry Schein, Bionime, Tri-State Distribution and Invacare supply group
  • NAFC added additional staff member
  • Association received the Crystal Award from the West Virginia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America for Special Event or Observances 7 days or Less
  • Held C.A.R.E. Clinics in Charlotte, North Carolina and New Orleans, Louisiana

2011

  • NAFC Executive Director was appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to the Negotiated Rule Making Committee for Medically Underserved and Health Professional Shortage Areas
  • Launched the new NAFC website
  • Association accepted to be a member of a policy coalition with Planner Parenthood, Mental Health America, National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and National Coalition of STD Directors for HIT inclusion and expansion of our memberships
  • Appointed by Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) as a Technical Expert working with George Washington University on a study that will look at the role of Health Information Technology (HIT) in reducing health disparities, particularly in communities that are underserved and have disproportionate numbers of vulnerable residents.
  • Partnered with Agency on Healthcare and Research and Quality (AHRQ-HRSA) to have a webinar entitled - Delivering Patient-Centered Outcomes Research to the Nation’s Free Clinics - for the public and NAFC members
  • Association featured in FOXNEWS story “ Clinical Demand: Patients flock to free health clinics in down economy”
  • Letter to the Editor in Time Magazine “Free Clinics Aren’t Just for the Unemployed”
  • Held C.A.R.E. Clinics in Tacoma, Washington and New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • Officially changed Association’s Name from National Association of Free Clinics to National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics

2012

  • Published a journal article entitled “the Free Clinic Movement: America’s Best kept health Care Secret” on MedScape
  • Published an editorial entitled “The Need for Health Care is Neither Red nor Blue”
  • Developed and approved an updated Association Strategic Planning process and began developing the NAFC Strategic Plan
  • Increased NAFC’s discounted product line from 35,000 items to 293,000 discounted items through Henry Schein, Bionime, Tri-State Distribution and Invacare supply group
  • Developed a program with WellDyne to offer a prescription card for patients, donors and volunteers that will pay each clinic $1.50 for scripts that are filled.
  • Association featured in radio interview with NPR “Health Care Law Puts Free Clinics At A Crossroads”
  • Held C.A.R.E. Clinics in Dallas, Texas where approximately 1,250 volunteers help to get free medical care to about 1,200 patients