When Dr. Barbara Horner-Ibler was in residency at Aurora-Sinai Hospital, she began to notice a gap that needed to be filled.
While patients were able to get treated at the hospital, they were being discharged into the community with almost no affordable resources, Horner-Ibler said. After seeing people return with the same treatable conditions, she decided enough was enough.
“There’s a person in need, so provide,” Horner-Ibler said. “It’s our responsibility to take care of each other.”
Horner-Ibler co-founded Bread of Healing Clinic with fellow physician Dr. Tom Jackson and nurse and clinic manager Rick Cesar in 2000. Their goal? To provide medical services to underserved communities.
The clinic, located in the basement of Cross Lutheran Church, 1821 N. 16th St., administers the Community MedShare program, which provides free and low-cost prescription drugs to those without insurance. It has two other locations, and its partners include United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Aurora Health Care.
The clinic also is a main hub of the Milwaukee Free and Community Clinic Collaborative, a group of community-based centers that offer free and low-cost medical services.
The clinic’s patients are screened to determine if they’re eligible for BadgerCare, Obamacare and other forms of health insurance. They might also be enrolled in patient assistance programs from pharmaceutical companies.
Andrea Bachal, a masters-level social worker at the clinic, said she connects clients with resources for energy assistance, rent assistance and food programs as well.
“We try to make sure we’re not giving people another dead end,” Bachal said. “A lot of times, because they’re uninsured by the time they get here, they’ve been told no again and again.”
After the screening, patients will see a clinician to identify their needs. The clinic mainly helps people with medication for blood pressure, asthma, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
However, it’s not always as simple as writing a prescription.
Many of the drugs prescribed at the clinic are generic or less expensive than name-brand ones. At times, staffers at the clinic may need to get creative with substitutes.
Horner-Ibler said this provides a teaching moment for resident physicians that they might not get elsewhere.
“You become aware of what things cost,” Horner-Ibler said. “Why do you think a patient isn’t getting that? Maybe because it’s $140 a month . . . You have to think about those things. A lot of times in a practice you don’t. You assume people have insurance and it covers that, but it doesn’t always.”
Sean Stevens-Fabry, operations manager, said before the pandemic, Bread of Healing served 1,800 individuals and is slowly rebuilding that base. According to a 2019 annual report, about 95% of patients at the clinic had incomes below the federal poverty line.
Formerly a Presbyterian minister and social worker, Horner-Ibler said the clinic provides help people can’t get elsewhere.
And that it’s a two-way relationship.
“Our patients are bringing their own gifts to this relationship,” Horner-Ibler said. “Working to get healthy, sharing their joy with us in their efforts. It’s just a great place to be.”
About Bread of Healing Clinic
Bread of Healing Clinic has three locations and operates on appointments. In addition to the Cross Lutheran Church location, there also are two other locations at Eastbrook Church, 5835 N. Green Bay Ave., and Florist Clinic at Traveler’s Rest Ministries, 5975 N. 40th St.
To make an appointment at Cross Lutheran Church, call 414-977-0001.
To make an appointment at Eastbrook Church, call 414-228-5220, ext. 107.
To make an appointment at Florist Clinic at Traveler’s Rest Ministries, call 414-216-3459.