Dr. Stephen Parks opened the doors to the Brandon Outreach Clinic in 1989.

By Gwen Rollings

Hundreds of cars pass by 517 N. Parsons Ave. weekly in Brandon. There is a sign at the end of an inconspicuous strip mall saying Brandon Outreach Clinic (BOC) is located there.

What that sign does not say is that BOC might have an answer to the healthcare concerns of many residents of Hillsborough County who do not have health insurance and cannot afford healthcare, and the clinic charges no fees for services to qualified patients.

The vision to create a safety net for uninsured and underinsured individuals who were falling through the healthcare cracks began in 1987. Stephen D. Parks, M.D. brainstormed what this clinic might look like with other medical and community leaders. When Dr. Parks suggested that someone needed to be appointed as point man, they appointed him.

After two years of planning, fundraising and establishing a grassroots network of providers, the clinic opened its doors in April 1989. Staffed entirely by volunteers, the clinic opened only one evening a week. Since then, a collaboration with other medical providers and volunteers has expanded its hours to four days a week.

BOC is a 501(c)(3) organization offering diagnostic and primary care and a three-tiered pharmacy. The goal of BOC is to help patients become and remain healthy so they can go to work and take care of their families by managing their conditions, keeping them out of expensive emergency rooms and minimizing healthcare costs in our community.

Although most patients coming to BOC work and have incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (for a family of four, this is $48,600), their jobs do not include access to affordable health insurance. As an income-based clinic, those seeking medical services are asked for donations to help purchase medications, medical supplies and operating expenses.

The eligibility requirements for pediatric (infants to 17 years) and adults (18-64 years) are: (1) resident of Hillsborough County, (2) U.S. citizen or permanent resident, (3) meet low income guidelines and (4) no other medical insurance (including Medicare, Medicaid or other government-funded healthcare.)

Dr. Parks established his primary care practice in 1983 and has served on boards for six years at Brandon Regional Hospital and for 25 years as a medical director at BOC.

He said, “The impact of this clinic goes far beyond just treating physical conditions. We hope to positively impact individuals, families and our community by bridging the gap for the uninsured.”

For information, visit www.theoutreachclinic.com or call 654-1388.