She is completely absorbed in the work of the Conway Interfaith Clinic, a place that translates a sense of purpose into life-sustaining help for the uninsured of Faulkner County.
Kittie Aaron is that image — an eager, animated and enthusiastic health care provider who leaves nothing to chance, being a champion to the thousands of people in this community who look to the clinic for health care. Physicians, an advanced practice nurse, general dental care, medications and referrals to other health providers are the tools that bring that care to the fore.
Sitting in her office in a box-like, one-story building on North Creek Drive, she offers no excuse for the ordinariness of the structure. It has been between these walls that more than 11,000-people have searched for the wonders of better health.
"That’s since 2003 when we opened — 11,000 people", she said, rolling that figure easily off her tongue. "Can you imagine that many people who’ve received help here?"
That the CIC, an instrument of prevention and timely, effective care, has come a long way in its proposition to give freely to people in need is readily apparent. It also has had an incidental but important effect of putting a dent in the number of uninsured people cycling in and out of the hospital, using emergency room visits almost willy-nilly.
The CIC is the place where Aaron is in charge, a puissant leader who has given CIC direction and now is orchestrating a "Making a Difference" capital campaign for expansion purposes. The growth of the clinic demands more space, ergo the campaign to raise money, she declares. Not for a new building; costs preclude that.
She has no qualms about taking on a hands-on push to raise some $820,000 for the purpose of purchasing and renovating a good part of the adjacent United Way Services Center and installing a clinic in that space vastly more suitable to its needs.
"The Interfaith Clinic will occupy two-thirds of the building. The present CIC facility will remain as a dental clinic," she pointed out.
"About $472,000 has been pledged or received to date," Aaron said. "About $348,999 remains to be raised. It will demand a lot of work but we’re up to it."
Meanwhile, a considerable amount of remodeling of the United Way building has already taken place and some aspects of the clinic are in operation in its new fittings, thanks to a $134,000 Conway Development Block Grant, $50,000 pledged by board members, $250,000 pledged by Conway Corporation, $5,000 given by various pledges and $18,000 in-kind donations of material, equipment and furniture.
From her viewpoint, Aaron said with conviction that the move into the United Way building is a god-send and a miracle of sorts.
"We were so cramped in the trailer; my office seemed always full of people. I wonder how we did it", she said shaking her head.
Beginning March 3, a "kickoff" to raise funds will be in place with several events on tap.
"We’ll be looking for donations, applying for grants, holding a golf tournament in honor of Dr. Jack Logan at the Tannenbaum Country Club at Greers Ferry Lake, sponsoring a classic bicycle show and conducting a parking lot sale at the Interfaith Clinic site, among other money-raising occasions," she said.
In retrospect, she said the ensuing years have witnessed extraordinary progress in assisting the 21.5 percent of Faulkner County citizens tagged as bereft of health insurance. It was because of such deprivation that in 2001 a small group of parishioners of the First United Methodist Church and some others were inclined to do something about it. A clinic to offer services for a population crying out for help was the answer.
A building to cope with needs of these people was imperative to the concept, so the construction of a modest manufactured building followed thanks to a $40,000 CDBG grant, $89,000 in contributions and a $150,000 line of credit.
"It was a leap of faith," Aaron said of the decision to build. Since that time she has become adept at praying for accommodation from physicians, nurses, other health care givers and pharmaceutical houses, virtually begging their wares freely.
Today, the clinic’s medical services are available Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Thursday opening being new to the schedule.
"This allows us to serve 800 additional patients," Aaron said.
If a clinic’s reputation is measured by the number of people it turns away, the CIC is a howling success.
"There is a two to three week wait for medical clinic appointments, and we’re turning away about 50 patients each week In the dental clinic we are booked three and one-half weeks ahead," the director revealed.
Some 8,600 dental patients have been served with 20,000 visits recorded. The value of this work was set at over $2.8 million. Medical services for 2,797 patients (13,737 visits) hit the $1.2 million mark; prescriptions for 824 patents carried a retail price tag of eight million.
At the moment, the dental clinic is opened four days a week "but we are expanding, adding another day which will enable us to provide 1,000 additional patient visits each year. Patients pay on a sliding scale, or their dental care is covered by Medicaid," she said.
The maturation of the clinic is revealed by dermatology and podiatry services offered; the patient assistance program that provides patients with access to free prescription drugs from pharmaceutical companies; a volunteer medical director; and two volunteer family practice physicians. This enables, Aaron said, the medical part of the clinic to operate at minimal cost. The patient assistance program for prescriptions has had a retail value of eight million dollars, she added
Meanwhile Aaron mulls over plans to do more to serve more people, offering health education classes, giving help to diabetes patients and adding to the clinic’s staff.
The mission of the clinic is set in simple terms: provide unmet health-care services for the uninsured of Faulkner County.
Unquestionably, this goal is being engaged.