Twenty-four thousand people living in Rockford have no health insurance, making trips to see a doctor expensive, if not impossible for them.
To cut down on unnecessary trips to the emergency room, The Bridge Clinic in downtown Rockford offers free health care to the uninsured.
Clinic manager, Nicky Bennett, has been an emergency room nurse for ten years. She says she watched hundreds of patients come in for medical help, when they could have been treated by a primary care doctor.
"You find yourself having to take time away from people who really need you because of their emergency to take care of things that really shouldn't be in the emergency room," says Bennett.
But without insurance, Bennett realized many of these people didn't have any other options.
Four years ago, she and a few other nurses and doctors set up The Bridge Clinic, catering to more than 550 uninsured patients every year.
"I think there's a reasonable chance that at lease half of them would have shown up in the emergency room," says Bennett.
Earlier this year, The Bridge Clinic moved to the Second Congregational Church in Rockford. Located on the 4th floor, the clinic is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturdays.
For many of the clinic's patients, this is the only medical attention they receive.
"And a huge majority of them are people that have been laid off over the last couple of years and they're stuck," says Bennett.
Since the clinic is staffed entirely by volunteers, Bennett says the need for more help is constant.
"It doesn't seem to matter how many people are on your list, you always need volunteers. We would love to have some more of the nurses and doctors come out and help."
The bridge clinic offers its services to adults only, ages 18 and up. All visits are free and you are not asked to show an I. D..