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City Pages

A new partnership between Nuçi’s Space and the Athens Nurses Clinic will help more members of the local music community access affordable primary health care.

The program, which began Apr. 17, allows low-income musicians and other members of the Athens artists’ community who don’t have health insurance to schedule doctor visits at the nonprofit clinic. Paige Cummings, director of Athens Nurses Clinic, said the partnership is a natural extension of the services the clinic already provides for low-income or homeless residents who don’t otherwise have access to health care.

For nearly a decade Dr. Kip Hicks, an emergency room doctor at St. Mary’s Hospital, has volunteered twice a month to see patients at Nuçi’s Space. Those patients will now see him at the Athens Nurses Clinic. “We’ve always wanted to expand [the primary care service] because, of course, it’s great to have that available,” said Wil Kiser, counseling advocate at Nuçi’s Space. “Right now, we’re just taking it step by step. And because our main focus at Nuçi’s Space is spent on the mental health side, of course we’re going to come across people who are dealing with physical issues.”

Cummings said the new partnership will make it easier to provide additional care, in addition to Hicks’ usual services, for clients who need it. “We’ll start [seeing patients] twice a month because that’s what they’re currently doing, and if it appears there is a greater need, then we will increase [the hours offered],” she said. “For some of them, we’ll follow up in our regular clinic; if they have a chronic condition, they can be seen once a week.”

The idea for the program came from an ongoing project in a University of Georgia Medical Partnership class focusing on community service. Last semester, the first-year class worked on mental health issues among musicians, along with various other projects, in conjunction with the Nurses Clinic. Bob Sleppy, executive director of Nuçi’s Space, mentioned Hicks’ volunteer work to Cummings, sparking the idea for a more extensive collaboration.

While the program focuses on health care for musicians and others in the Athens arts community who don’t have health insurance, both Kiser and Cummings acknowledged people outside the arts community won’t be turned away if they can’t otherwise afford care. Potential patients need to call Nuçi’s Space for an appointment, and the Nurses Clinic will handle the patient’s paperwork. Nuçi’s Space will then follow up with the patient, who will be asked to complete a survey.

“We exist to help low-income, uninsured people, so it doesn’t matter if they’re musicians. They could be coming to our clinic anyway,” Cummings said. “If we’re seeing people because they’re coming to us through Nuçi’s Space, it’s a win-win for everyone.”