Free and Charitable Health Clinics Put the ‘Net’ in Safety Net

Photo from Ubi Caritas, Beaumont Texas


During May, we celebrate nurses for all they do to keep patients healthy – even more deserved because of the COVID-19 pandemic, when excellent patient care can mean life and death. Nicole Lamoreaux, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC), calls nurses “the heart and soul of what we do.” Her nonprofit works to ensure the medically underserved have access to affordable, quality health care.

Based in Alexandria, Virginia, NAFC has 1,400 free and charitable clinics around the country, annually providing health care to 2 million people, and 6 million patient visits for them. They also have a volunteer and staff workforce of more than 200,000 people that work with the national organization – approximately 15,000 of whom are nurses. And because many pharmacies stepped up during COVID-19, particularly in communities that didn’t have pharmacies, NAFC became a pseudo “home” for them, too.

“We know there are so many people across the United States who fall through the cracks of our health care system,” Lamoreaux says. “They don’t make enough – and there’s no other way to say that – and they don’t qualify for Medicaid. There are also people who have Medicaid, but who don’t have access to dental care, mental health care, or prescription access.

“We are the community’s response to health care. We are grassroots medicine at its finest. We’re not funded by the federal government, we are all 501(c)(3) organizations, which makes us different than our other counterparts in the safety net sector.”

People connect with the clinics through word of mouth, direct outreach, their website (, which identifies clinics via a zip code map), or through community partners that connect people with rural or community health centers.