SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) Providing quality medical care to those who do not have health insurance or government assistance is the mission of the Good Shepherd Clinic, which is slated to open in Spearfish Feb. 2.

The brainchild of several local residents and members of Our Savior's Lutheran Church, the clinic has been established as a nonprofit, ecumenical community project.

Initially the clinic will operate from the fellowship hall of Our Savior's Lutheran Church, where volunteers have set up two private areas in order to maintain confidentiality. The entrance is on the east side of the church and is handicapped accessible.

Helen Merriman, president of the Good Shepherd Clinic board of directors, said the idea to start the ministry came when Our Savior's Lutheran Church's pastor, the Rev. Kent Stillson, read of a similar clinic in Whitefish, Mont.

Dr. Steve Vosler, who is also a church member, has experience with doing medical mission trips in Nicaragua, and after much discussion church members decided there was a growing need for such a clinic in Spearfish.

"The stated mission of Good Shepherd Clinic is to provide quality medical care for people without health insurance and to take the light of Christ into the community," Merriman said.

The clinic will be open on Mondays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. In order to be eligible for services, health care recipients must live in the Northern Hills and not be covered by or qualify for Medicare, Medicaid, veterans assistance, Native American assistance or have any private health insurance. The clinic will be available for walk-in patients as its doctors will not take appointments, and volunteer medical staff will see 25 patients per session.

Since patients will be seen on a walk-in basis, Merriman said clinic volunteers are asking healthcare recipients to come prepared to wait for services. Patients will be seen on an urgency-of-care basis.

The Good Shepherd Clinic will provide other services.

Additionally, a partnership with Spearfish Regional Hospital will enable clinic volunteers to offer lab testing and X-rays through the hospital's financial assistance program. Some patients may be required to meet certain income requirements to be eligible for the financial assistance program at the hospital.

Larry Veitz, CEO of Spearfish Regional Hospital will also serve as an ex-officio member of the Good Shepherd Clinic board of directors and has also worked closely with volunteers to establish the clinic.

"This project is the result of a year-long process of planning," Veitz said. "The partnership between Good Shepherd Clinic and the Regional Health Care System will assure its long-term success."

Vosler, of Spearfish Regional Hospital, will serve as the medical director for the Good Shepherd Clinic. Ann Brown-Schmeltzer, RN, and Deb Winter-Kimbell, RN, both Regional Health employees, will serve as the medical operations coordinators.

In addition to partnering with Spearfish Regional Hospital, the clinic will also use a voucher system for prescriptions using several local pharmacies. Though there will not be drugs on site at the clinic, the local pharmacists will submit vouchers to the clinic for payment.

Good Shepherd Clinic is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that is operated entirely by volunteers. Its board of directors is comprised of members from Our Savior's Lutheran Church, St. Joseph's Catholic Church, and The United Church of Christ in Spearfish. All donations to the clinic are tax-deductible and are used for basic exam room equipment and furnishings, as well as patient medications and clinical supplies.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.