Riverside Health Center is still the Free Clinic

The Riverside Health Center, formerly the Allegheny Highlands Free Clinic, has had a new executive director since March, and continues to offer the only services of its kind in this area. In 1998, the Free Clinic was originally in the hospital in Low Moor, and has been in a couple of other locations until arriving at its’ current home at 332 West Riverside Avenue in Covington. Sheri Walters, the new director, gives a little history, and describes what remains the same. In another story in this pair, she’ll share some hopes and plans for the clinic.

What lead to the name change from the Free Clinic?

“The change in the name was because the clinic and the board were working on trying to become a federally qualified health center. In the end, that didn’t work out, at least not yet.”

But what the board and staff would like is, according to Walters,

“for people to understand that we are still the Free Clinic.”

There is a full time physician’s assistant, a volunteer doctor, and office support staff in addition to Sheri, so the staff is very small.   By the time this news piece airs, there may be pharmacy and lab staff available too.

How many people does the free clinic serve, and how far do they travel?

“We have about 412 patients right now that we’re serving. We serve all of the Allegheny Highlands, Bath and Covington, Allegheny County, Clifton Forge, and Iron Gate.

How has the Affordable Care Act changed who the free clinic sees for medical care?

“It has changed things because a lot more people who were uninsured have gotten insurance. For us particularly in the Allegheny Highlands, we’ve seen a decrease in inpatient load partially because of that, partially because we are overall an aging community, and a lot of people who might have been uninsured, once they turn sixty-five, they can get Medicare, and no longer need the Free Clinic. And overall, the population in both Bath and Allegheny County is decreasing, so that impacts us too. But still, we are managing to see quite a few people, and we believe that there are still others that aren’t aware that we’re still here.

For patients in Bath County not able to travel to Covington, admissions are slightly different. Walters continued,

“The way that anyone who is uninsured in Bath County can access health care through our clinic is, they can contact us, and arrange to sign up through an application in Bath County. Usually we would meet at Bath Community Hospital”

The Rural Health Center is on the second floor of the Hospital in Hot Springs.

In Covington, the hours of the Riverside Health Center are: Monday through Thursday 7:30 am through 4:00 pm, and Fridays 7:30 through 12:00. To contact the free clinic for medical assistance, or to volunteer, please call 540-962-1660. And for part two in this pair of stories, stay tuned to Allegheny Mountain Radio.


Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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