True to its mission, the Rock River Free Clinic provides access to free health services for low income and uninsured individuals. Located in Jefferson, the clinic was formed in 2003 in response to the growing number of economically disadvantaged residents in Jefferson County who lack reasonable access to healthcare. The Rock River Free Clinic provides a critical link in the chain of medical and social services available to this fragile population.
As early as 2002, Gail Scott, RN, director of the Jefferson County Health Department, along with Health Department administration and staff knew there was a dire need for free medical care for low-income individuals and families without health insurance.
The clinic was established as a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and is overseen by a Board of Directors. The Board is made up of members from Fort HealthCare, Jefferson County Health Department and community organizations, as well as nurses, doctors and other individuals interested in providing care to those in need.
From 2003 to 2012, the clinic was open only one night per week and staffed by volunteer physicians, nurses, social workers, interpreters, pharmacists, and clerical staff.
In 2011, the Rock River Free Clinic Board of Directors, the Jefferson County Health Department and Fort HealthCare discussed ways to assure that the Clinic could continue to meet the health care needs of low-income, uninsured persons. They concluded that the clinic would greatly benefit from a full-time physician, funded through Fort HealthCare, and a full-time licensed practical nurse (LPN), funded through the Rock River Free Clinic and hired by the Jefferson County Health Department.
Starting in January 2012, this unique partnership between Fort HealthCare, Rock River Free Clinic, and the Jefferson County Health Department allowed the clinic to be open four and a half days per week, staffed by David Rutledge, MD and Bonnie Peot, LPN. Dr. Rutledge, a family medicine physician at Fort HealthCare Jefferson for twenty nine years, was appointed full-time Medical Director at the clinic. This full-time commitment, paid for by Fort HealthCare, helped the Free Clinic Board reach its goal of adding more regular physician services to the program.