Townsend medical clinic

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 21, 2010

Tri-Lakes hears player’s pitch to host medical clinic

By Billy Davis

The administration at Tri-Lakes Medical Center has met with Deshea Townsend and a second meeting is planned for June, hospital administrator Greg Cantrell said Thursday.

Townsend, a Batesville native and current NFL free agent, is pitching the idea of a free medical clinic that would be affiliated with Tri-Lakes.

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Townsend is partnering with Dr. Zane Gates, who operates a clinic in Gates’ hometown of Altoona, Pa.

Townsend played cornerback for the Pittsburg Steelers and still resides there, where he is well known for his charity work and philanthropy efforts.

Townsend, with Gates at his side, returned to Batesville last week to host his 11th annual Pay It Forward Camp, a free football clinic that pairs youths with NFL players. A free health fair was also held.

Cantrell confirmed that Townsend and Gates described the Altoona clinic and pitched the idea of teaming with the Batesville hospital. Cantrell said Methodist Health, which has formed a partnership with Tri-Lakes, is involved in the discussions.

The football player’s work on behalf of the free medical clinic was featured May 17 in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette (see related story).

Gates told the Gazette that the Altoona clinic is based at a hospital, Altoona Regional Health System, which allows the hospital to send patients to the clinic who would normally clog an emergency room. 

According to the story, the healthcare is free but not the cost – Altoona Regional absorbs and writes off about $2.3 million a year in medication and tests.

Townsend and Gates have met with Pennsylvania legislators, and with other area hospitals, to expand the program across the state, according to the article. 

Pennsylvania legislators have passed House and Senate bills that would fund the clinic, and others like it, across Pennsylvania.

The mission of the free clinic is to offer healthcare to people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford health insurance, said Belinda Morris.

“It’s been successful in Pennsylvania and it’s something that’s desperately needed here,” said Morris, who helped arrange Townsend’s meeting at Tri-Lakes.

Mississippi state Rep. Warner McBride said he talked about healthcare in Mississippi with Townsend and Dr. Gates at the May 15 health fair.

“I told Deshea that I’m proud of him and everything he’s done,” said McBride. “He’s determined to give back to the community.”