Jim Heckman took over as Executive Director at The Hope Clinic last August, succeeding Teri Hogg. Heckman recently reported on a number of exciting new things underway at the clinic, led by a new service of testing for and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs.
“The STD initiative has been in the planning stages for well over a year,” according to Heckman, noting it was his predecessor Hogg who laid the groundwork and Nurse Manager Mary Carol Schwartz who put all of the pieces in place. The Hope Clinic began offering testing and treatment for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and HIV in February. Heckman stated that “The spread of sexually transmitted infections and diseases is a growing problem throughout the United States, and Adams County is no exception,” offering the following statistics:
- 25% of people ages 15-24 have an STD. Young women in this same age group account for 79% of all reported Chlamydia cases. Untreated, Chlamydia can damage a woman’s ability to have children and may lead to premature delivery in pregnant women.
- Over 3 million teenagers in the USA will contract STDs this year.
- 1 in 4 clients who comes in for a pregnancy test is likely to have an STD.
“The insidious threat from these infections is that they frequently have no outward symptoms for some time, yet are being shared and spread to new partners,” Heckman continued. “They silently threaten the health of women, men and, potentially, unborn babies. Offering screening for STDs gives The Hope Clinic an opportunity to reach young people before a crisis pregnancy occurs; to direct them toward proper medical treatment for the infection; and to talk to them about sexual integrity, lifestyle, and risks.”
“Today there is no place else in Adams County where a young woman or man can go for a free, confidential screening for STDs. Despite the goal of expanded health coverage for all, the reality is that many, especially the young, remain uninsured. Or they are insured but the copays and deductibles are unaffordable. For many, if screening carries a cost they will not do it.”
Longer Hours and Staff Additions
Heckman reported that in November, The Hope Clinic began staying open until 7:00 PM in Decatur on Mondays and in Berne on Tuesdays. This was in response to feedback from existing clients and recognition that future clients may have scheduling conflicts that would prevent them from coming in during the day. He further noted that the combination of adding STD testing services and extending office hours drove the addition of two part-time nurses—one in each office—to cover the extra medical workload. Jeni Hirschy joined The Hope Clinic team in November and Milly Fox came on board in January. Both had previously volunteered at The Hope Clinic. Additionally, Brandi Girod was hired in January to coordinate The Hope Clinic’s social media outreach and keep its website current. Brandi is a senior at Huntington University and served The Hope Clinic as an intern last summer.
The existing staff members, in addition to Schwartz, are Becky Fahl, Client/Donor Administrator and Gidget Reyes, Program/Volunteer Coordinator. Much of the daily interaction with the 400+ clients served each year is entrusted to a team of more than 40 trained volunteers.
New Education Programs
In addition to providing free medical services, Heckman emphasized that providing educational programs and material support to clients are an important part of The Hope Clinic ministry, and offered examples of two recent additions to the educational and support offerings.
“We recently joined the Safe Sleep program sponsored by the Indiana Dept. of Health,” said Heckman. “This program provides education on proper infant sleep environments along with a free pack ‘n play and other items for parents, grandparents, babysitters or other caregivers who do not have a proper, place for an infant to sleep safely. The program is available to expectant moms in their last 6 weeks of pregnancy, and to caregivers of babies up to one year of age.”
Reading with Kids
“We also just started a new ‘Reading with My Child’ class in conjunction with the United Way’s Let’s Talk initiative. This program is aimed at getting parents more active in reading to their newborn babies right from the start, as studies have shown the children’s learning and language development are very important during the first three years of life.” The Hope Clinic also offers classes on parenting, nutrition, finances, child safety and a variety of other topics.
The Hope Clinic is a nonprofit medical pregnancy resource center serving families in and around Adams County. Since 1992, The Hope Clinic has been helping women—and their partners—facing unplanned pregnancies, to build strong and healthy families. “Our professional staff and trained volunteers provide accurate information regarding pregnancy options, pregnancy education, parenting Information, and now STDs”, noted Heckman. “We are a Christian-based organization, striving to always deliver care in a non-judgmental and compassionate manner, following the example and teachings of Jesus Christ.” Heckman concluded by noting that “All services at both the Berne and Decatur clinics are free and confidential. We are funded entirely by private donations and grants, and accept no government funding. We are blessed to have such wonderful support from our community: individuals, businesses and churches, as well as the Adams County Community Foundation.”
The Hope Clinic is located at 165 W. Water Street in Berne (260-589-3561) with hours from 10 am-7 pm Tuesdays and 10 am-5 pm Thursdays; and at 970 S. 11th Street in Decatur (260-728-4191) with hours from 10 am-7 pm Mondays and 10 am-5 pm Wednesdays. For more information, contact Jim Heckman, Executive Director or visit their website: www.hopeandanswers.com.
Photo: The Hope Clinic staff. Seated from left Mary Carol Scwhartz, Jim Heckman, Milly Fox;
standing from left Brandi Girod, Becky Fahl, Gidget Reyes, Jeni Hirschy
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