OSHKOSH — There was a need in downtown Oshkosh, and three parishioners of Most Blessed Sacrament Parish are part of a team of people who have stepped forward to fill it.
Brianna Klotz, a nurse practitioner, Stefanie Hernet, a certified nurse midwife, and Laurie Pollack, coordinator of pastoral outreach at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, worked together for months to launch St. Anne’s Clinic, a charitable clinic for the uninsured and underinsured. It’s part of Most Blessed Sacrament’s Water City Care Mission, located in the former St. Peter School building on the church campus, 449 High St.
The clinic offers primary care, preventative care, health promotion, chronic disease management, acute illness management, care coordination, mental health care and AA meetings. This fall, it opened its doors to clients of Day By Day Warming Shelter, which is housed in the same building. Plans are for the clinic to be open to the general public by mid-January.
Klotz is the director and president of Water City Care Mission. She had volunteered at a free clinic in Oshkosh for 14 years and knew they needed something along the same line in the heart of the city. “Living in Oshkosh and knowing the demographics, I saw the need. UWO had a free clinic, which closed in 2017. We haven’t had anything in downtown Oshkosh since.”
She credited Tim Moore, an Oshkosh business owner who has considerable experience in the nonprofit sector, for his help creating the infrastructure to run the clinic. He and fellow St. Raphael the Archangel parishioner, Ragen Pecore, along with Klotz and Hernet, comprise the board of directors for Water City Care Mission.
Most Blessed Sacrament’s campus was the ideal location for the clinic, but things had to fall into place to make that work. “At the time that Brianna first reached out to us, we didn’t feel like we had space here,” said Pollack. “When COVID hit, we as a parish sat down and talked about how we could be more mission focused. When Brianna came back to us a second time, we said, ‘We need to do this. It’s the right thing to do in our community; it meets our mission.’”
An old classroom on the first floor of the building was cleared to make room for St. Anne’s Clinic. In addition to the clinic and warming shelter, the building houses an alternative school for the Oshkosh Area School District and a dance academy.
There will be no income screening or eligibility requirements for clients to take advantage of the services the clinic offers, noted Klotz. “If someone has insurance that we could get reimbursed from, such as Medicaid or Medicare, we are working on being able to take advantage of that. If someone is uninsured or underinsured and is able to make a donation, we’ll gratefully accept that but it’s not a requirement.”
Hernet, who works as a certified nurse midwife at Ascension NE Wisconsin Mercy Hospital in Oshkosh, is in charge of women’s health care at St. Anne’s Clinic. She has arranged her schedule to be able to provide health care at the clinic as a volunteer every other Tuesday afternoon. “Clients will see me here for general women’s health care, like yearly pap smears and STD testing. We probably won’t do a whole lot with pregnant women here, but they can follow me to Ascension Mercy so they can get set up with insurance that they might qualify for, such as BadgerCare Plus (health care coverage program for low-income Wisconsin residents).”
St. Anne’s Clinic hours are Tuesdays, noon to 4 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Klotz said this clinic will benefit many people in the Oshkosh area.
The goal for Water City Care Mission overall is to be a resource for people for their physical needs, as well as mental, physical and spiritual health. “As part of the parish, we’d like to be able to come in and provide for spiritual needs,” said Pollack. “People can come in from the community for any kind of resources that they’re looking for.”
Currently, the clinic needs volunteers and donations, both monetary and physical, such as medical or exam room equipment and office supplies.
“A lot of donations we get are samples through pharmaceutical companies that are not expired but too close to the expiration date to be sold to a pharmacy,” said Klotz. “We also have a nice relationship with Schultz Pharmacy in Oshkosh and Omro Pharmacy. They will support us with medication that we don’t have access to here.”
As the clinic develops, Hernet would like to bring in nurse midwifery students for clinical training. “As a student, you don’t always get to see the type of population we see here. There’s the mental health side and from the women’s health side, they’re at high risk for sexually transmitted infections, sex trafficking, unintended pregnancies and rape. When you’re homeless and have health issues, all of those risks increase. There’s a lot of counseling that comes along with that that you might not see with a traditional practice.”
“I would like this to be that place in downtown Oshkosh where people know they can come for resources, and have our parish membership on board and supporting us,”said Pollock. “Our parishioners want to give, but they want to know what they’re giving to. I think when they can actually apply their giving to a specific area, they’re more vested in it.”
“Through God’s grace, I overcame some hardships to become who I am today,” added Klotz. “I know that poor people get stuck in situations, and they have more hoops to jump through than others. God wants us to love him and love others. For us, Water City Care Mission is about just that — loving God through serving others and meeting them where they are.”