Dr. Patch Adams visits Philly to discuss founding first free clinic

patch adams clinic
One of the proposed site plans for the Patch Adams Free Clinic at Philadelphia.
Credit: PaulGlover.org

Legendary physician and social activist Dr. Hunter Doherty “Patch” Adams – whose life story was featured in a film starring Robin Williams – will visit Philadelphia next week to discuss establishing the first Patch Adams Free Clinic to serve the city’s 275,000 uninsured residents.

“I’m thrilled to be part of the stimulus for Philadelphia’s grassroots initiative, for health care in loving service to all,” Adams said in a statement.

“It’s so important for We the People to see that we can deliver beautiful health care much cheaper.”

The Patch Adams Free Clinic at Philadelphia will provide preventative and primary care to all visitors, while offering those who become clinic members the opportunity to participate in board votes and access special care – like dental, optical, chiropractic, veterinary, acupuncture and massage treatment – by performing several yearly hours of “sweat equity” work in and around the clinic.

“We intend to move beyond charity toward ownership, through the generosity of the community,” founding director Paul Glover said in a statement.

Adams and the rest of the clinic group – which has coalesced into a tax-exempt program of the Community Health Collaborative of Philadelphia – are moving toward purchasing a five-acre vacant lot near 17th Street and Allegheny Avenue in North Philadelphia, where they will construct “a passive solar clinic surrounded by orchards, greenhouses and passive solar low-income housing,” according to a release, which calls the proposed facility “loveably different.”

Plans also call for an integrated “health campus” with a treatment area, as well as space for music, art, dance, theater and green health care job training.

One acre each will be set aside for the clinic, an orchard, a “food forest,” greenhouses and low-income “earthship” housing.

“We’ll build an energy-efficient passive solar earth-sheltered structure,” organizing team member Tom Greene said in a release.

“Deep earth cover reduces heating and cooling bills toward zero. That’s so that all our income goes to healing rather than utility bills.”

The facility will be surrounded by parkland, including an urban garden with locally grown edibles.

“Fresh food is essential to good health and growing food in the neighborhood teaches basic skills,” clinic group member and nurse Caroline Immendorfer said in a statement.

“In the long run, we will be creating a model for healthy eating, healthy living and healthy communities.”

The group has already signed an agreement with the landowner permitting them to clear the lot, plant and plan as they continue to raise funds to fully purchase the parcel.

“This is the first step in promoting health and well being in the city,” Jason Lerner of Michael Realty said in a statement.

“Through this program we will help people take better care of themselves by preventive care and eating properly. Patch Adams’ clinic will provide inspiration to the entire city.”

Committees are forming to gather tools and equipment, raise funds and network with local businesses and residents.

A soil team led by Drexel grad Jim Wurster is studying where cleanup is needed, while other organizers are meeting with neighbors to hear community concerns.

Tioga United founder Verna Brown-Tyner said the clinic “sounded like an ideal fit,” but that her group “will make sure the community is supportive and gets a chance to help develop the plan.”

Philadelphia University students have already donated their time to create preliminary floorplans and renderings that transform the clinic waiting area into a “wildly decorated relaxing room with soothing live music,” as well as couches, cots and clowns.

Plans also call for meeting and movie rooms, a “Rub Room” for massages and a name-your-own-price health food cafeteria.

Organizers said they expect the clinic to open “in a couple of years.”

Here’s a video more fully explaining the project:

To drum up support for the proposal, Adams will at 6:30 p.m. July 23 speak at the Drexel University College of Medicine located at 245 N. 15th St., and will at 6:30 p.m. July 24 appear at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, located at 1939 W. Venango St.

Admission to both events is free.

Those who wish to volunteer or donate materials for the new facility can do so through the Patch Adams Free Clinic of Philadelphia website.

The clinic group is currently seeking tax-deductible donations of storage space, garden tools, building materials, and medical and dental equipment without expiration dates, as well as dollars and “of course, clown costumes,” the release stated.

They’re also seeking time donations from those skilled in healing and artisan services, as well carpentry, labor, art, architecture, gardening and health care.


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