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Former YCCAC Board Member Patsy Leavitt featured in local news article

Former YCCAC Board member Patsy Leavitt was featured in an article published in the American Journal on May 17, 2019. Patsy is the founder and executive director of Leavitt’s Mill Free Health Center, which after 16 years of operation will close later this year.

Buxton free health clinic closing
May 17, 2019

By ROBERT LOWELL
American Journal

BUXTON — Choking back tears, the executive director and her part-time assistant talked about closing their free health care clinic, which has served some 2,000 uninsured patients since opening on Labor Day 2003.

Leavitt’s Mill Free Health Center, 63 Main St. (Route 4A in Bar Mills) will end medical services on June 30 and stop providing dental services later in the summer.

“It’s a bittersweet time,” said Patsy Leavitt, founder and executive director.

The decision to close the health center came earlier this year because more patients are now eligible for insurance through the recent expansion of MaineCare (Medicaid).

“We had to make a tough decision,” Leavitt said.

The health center notified its 275 patients in February that it was closing.

Sen. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, a retired physician who served on the health center’s Board of Directors, said in an email that the closing is “actually a good news story in many ways” as most of their patients now qualify for public health insurance.

“The health center is closing as their services are no longer needed,” Sanborn said. “Patients will now all be able to access full services from a primary care provider and their medications, lab testing and important screenings will be covered.”

Leavitt has depended on grants, fundraisers and donations to keep the center’s doors open. Landlord Rob Connary has been generous as has the Narragansett No. 1 Foundation, she said. Last year, the health center received a $25,000 gift from the New England Patriots.

Donors have included the town of Buxton and surrounding municipalities. Some patients gave what they could — $1 or $2 per visit.

“Patsy Leavitt is a real hero who has been running the health center on a shoestring for 15 years,” Sanborn said.

Volunteers have included, according to the center’s website, five nurse practitioners, one internist, five nurses, a dental hygienist, a dentist, a prescription assistance advocate, two phlebotomists, a dermatologist,
Affordable Care Act advocate, several office/support people and many college and university student interns.

The health center office will remain open until some time this fall while Leavitt and administrative assistant Donna Shepard, a part-time employee and the only paid staff member, assist patients in transferring their care. “Donna has done a great job coaching them,” Leavitt said.

The health center has been discharging five to 10 people weekly.

Patients were notified in a letter and Shepard said each patient will receive three phone calls. Leavitt said some patients have asked whether Shepard would be answering the phone for another year.

Shepard’s last day in the office will likely be in September.

Some of the health center’s medical equipment will be given to the Portland Community Free Clinic and other items to the University of Southern Maine, where Leavitt is a professor of nursing.

Expenses between now and closing likely will run about $15,000. “We don’t expect to have cash left over,” she said.

A printed health center informational bulletin said it planned to close this summer and “declare victory,” explaining patients would have access to comprehensive medical care and free transportation.

Leavitt summed up years of service. “It was a privilege,” she said.

For more information, call Leavitt’s Mill Free Health Center at 929-6455.

PHOTO: Patsy Leavitt, right, executive director of Leavitt’s Mill Free Health Center in Buxton, said it’s closing after serving uninsured patients for 15 years. She is pictured with Donna Shepard, her part-time administrative assistant. ROBERT LOWELL/American Journal