Free clinic finds ‘real’ home

01:00 AM EDT on Tuesday, May 4, 2010
By Philip Marcelo
Journal Staff Writer

Dr. Annie De Root
Dr. Anne De Groot conducts a tour to show construction progress on the future site of the clinic on Valley Street in Olneyville.

The Providence Journal /Andrew Dickerman

PROVIDENCE — Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic, a free, largely volunteer health-care clinic that has been operating for months out of church basements and temporary spaces, celebrated the opening of a new, permanent home in Olneyville on Monday morning.

The clinic joins the Rhode Island Free Clinic, in the city’s Elmwood neighborhood, as the
state’s only clinics providing no-cost health care to people without

Work is under way to outfit a ground-floor office in The Plant, a former textile mill on Valley Street, for the clinic. When it opens in June, the 3,000-square-foot Clinica Esperanza will be equipped with four exam rooms, two triage rooms and a 1,200-square-foot classroom/waiting-room space.

Dr. Anne De Groot, medical director and co-founder of Clinica Esperanza, said the clinic will provide primary care treatment for chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and women’s health.

“There are thousands of uninsured persons living in Providence alone, and we, as a community, have a moral obligation to address their needs,” De Groot said.

Clinica Esperanza’s main focus will be the neighborhood’s Latino population, with two paid bilingual staffers — a nurse and a clinic coordinator. Many volunteer doctors, outreach workers, medical, nursing and pharmacy students on duty will also be Spanish-speaking, according to De Groot.

Olneyville, in the city’s West Side, has about 5,500 residents, of which about 66 percent are Hispanic, one-third are foreign born, and 65 percent speak a language other than English at home, according to a 2009 survey conducted for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the 2000 Census.

U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin, who attended the ribbon-cutting for the clinic Monday, said that it will provide a “vital safety net” in the years before 2014, when key components of comprehensive health-care reform take effect.

In the years after, the clinic will continue to serve low-income Rhode Islanders still unable to afford health care, De Groot said. There are currently about 140,000 uninsured Rhode Islanders, with the numbers expected to increase by 6 to 10 percent until 2014, according to De Groot.

The CEO of a Providence-based biotech company called EpiVax, De Groot co-founded Clinica Esperanza as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2007 after volunteering for six years at the Rhode Island Free Clinic.

The clinic started operations in November 2009, opening outreach clinics in the basements of the Open Table of Christ Church in Washington Park and Iglesia Esperanza in Olneyville. It set up a temporary clinic at the offices of AIDS Care Ocean State on Broad Street in June.

The goal is to serve 1,000 patients in the first year and 2,000 to 3,000 when the clinic is fully operational and open five nights a week.

De Groot says the clinic has enough money to complete the $300,000-renovation. She anticipates $160,000 in annual operating costs. So far, it has about $120,000, or enough to take the organization through September. Grants and donations should cover the
remainder of the costs, she said.

Clinica Esperanza will open in June on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 5 to 9 p.m. and Friday afternoons from 1 to 5 p.m. at 60 Valley St. For more information call
Clinic Coordinator Carlos Juarez at (401) 649-9683, or visit