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Nancy Morgans-Ferguson

Shalom Free Clinic
Purpose Prize Fellow 2012

Morgans-Ferguson’s all-volunteer free clinic provides health screenings, primary care and mental health services to the underinsured and uninsured in California.

Nancy Morgans-Ferguson had recently retired from a 30-year career in pharmaceutical and medical sales when one day in 2005 a homeless woman knocked on the door of her church in Chico, Calif. The woman asked for a glass of water, but she needed much more: She had mental and physical issues, but she feared the emergency room.

Out of Morgans-Ferguson’s repeated attempts to get care for the woman grew the Shalom Free Clinic, which since 2006 has provided free health screenings, primary care and mental health services to more than 7,000 underinsured and uninsured children and adults in Butte County.

Shalom is co-sponsored by the Chico Havurah and the Congregational Church of Chico, where it opens each Sunday afternoon after services in a church nursery school converted into exam and counseling rooms by volunteers.

Many patients are between ages 45 and 65; many have lost their jobs, leaving them without health insurance. In the past five years, about 500 volunteer doctors, nurses, pharmacists and therapists have seen patients for a range of health issues – flu, diabetes, alcoholism intervention – and have referred them to specialists when needed. The clinic also provides free meals.

“Volunteers are there to help with housing issues, legal problems, food access problems,” Morgans-Ferguson says. “Only addressing the medical and mental health issues does not really address most of the patients’ needs.”