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Baby Health Service Reaches 100 Year Birthday

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LEXINGTON Baby Health Service, Inc. Of Lexington, Ky. Is celebrating a century of community service with a celebration at Keeneland on May 31, 2014. Begun in 1914 as Baby Milk Service, this non-profit has grown from a group of six local women, who soon added a nurse and physician, to a working board of 59 women, three paid medical staff, and nearly a dozen pediatricians, who volunteer their time each morning in the clinic to see patients. Our patients are children and adolescents who do not have private insurance, Medicaid, KCHIP, or any other form of health insurance. Baby Health Service, Inc. Provides free comprehensive healthcare to children from birth until their 18th birthday. In 2013, Baby Health served more than 2,100 children and adolescents in the central Kentucky area.

How many non-profits can boast 100 years of existence? We are unique in the Commonwealth and nearly unique across the country. In 1914, deliveries of milk, formula, cod liver oil, and even food were made to low income families. The addition of a nurse in 1915 enabled Baby Milk Service to begin weekly clinics and immunizations by the 1920s. With the inception of welfare after World War II, the policy of specializing in families ineligible for government assistance was put into effect. The 1950s saw the nurses driving trucks around the community to provide polio vaccines for eligible children. The 1966 installation of Sister Michael Leo Mullaney, of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, as administrator of Saint Joseph Hospital, ushered in the establishment of Baby Health Service in the waiting room of the emergency room of the hospital in Lexington. Today, more than half a century later, Baby Health Service still enjoys an incredibly generous relationship with Saint Joseph, now part of KentuckyOne Health. The clinic occupies the lower level of a building owned by KentuckyOne Health and pays an annual rent of $1, as well as enjoying greatly reduced rates for diagnostic services provided by the hospital.

The clinic operates with no federal or United Way funding. Our budget for 2014 is $191,000, with three paid part-time staff (two nurse practitioners and one registered nurse). We rely on two hand-written fund drives – one focused on individuals in the community and one on businesses – both completed by the board members and grants, applications for which are completed by volunteer board members.

A question we hear on a regular basis is, “How will Baby Health continue to be effective or necessary with the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?” Our medical director, Dr. Tom Young, a University of Kentucky pediatrician, who has been involved with the clinic for more than 30 years, offered the following explanation: “There is still so much unknown on how the ACA will impact the uninsured children we serve. We have always had children who were uninsured that were eligible for Medicaid or KCHIP. It is likely some will gain coverage as more parents receive Medicaid. We also have a growing number of Hispanic children and international families who will not be eligible under ACA expansion. I think we can say that BHS has always provided quality health care for children who fall through the health care cracks and will continue to do so. When and if we are not needed, we will, with a note of great accomplishment, retire knowing we served children well. We will obviously continue to track our service levels, and if they do drop significantly over the years, we can consider next steps. For now, we meet a great need in our community. Too much is not known.”

One thing that is known, however, is that Baby Health looks forward to enjoying a second century of serving the children of our community.