Fighting for health

Jun 29, 2005 at 12:00 am

The country is in the midst of a health care crisis. We all know that. As costs skyrocket and politicians address the problem with lip service instead of reform, people across the country are left bankrupt and begging for mercy. Given that disheartening big picture, some Ferndale residents are trying to take matters into their own hands by pushing for a free clinic to be set up in their town.

Since January, a group of about 12 people led by activist Stephanie Loveless has been going door-to-door to drum up support for such a clinic among the city's 22,000 residents. For the project to succeed, said residents would have to fund it by raising taxes on themselves.

All the door-knocking is intended to lay the groundwork for a forthcoming petition drive that will attempt to get the issue placed on the November ballot, Loveless says.

"There is a clear need for this in Ferndale," she says. "There are a lot of working poor in Ferndale. We're hoping it will work and that other places will follow suit."

As envisioned, the project would cost the average Ferndale household about $50 a year. One full-time physician, several nurses and one receptionist would staff the clinic. Loveless says she would like to work with area hospitals to help get the project off the ground.

It's not yet clear how many beds the facility would have, or where it would be located. Loveless says her research indicates that the cost of opening a modest clinic would be about $600,000. So far, she says, the group (which has no name yet) has given out some 5,000 cards and received several hundred responses; the group hopes to begin gathering signatures by the end of July.

According to Ferndale's city charter, the group has 60 days from the date the first petition is signed to collect 293 valid signatures, a number equal to 20 percent of the votes for the highest vote-getter on City Council.

Loveless expects a fight. "It's not going to be a problem getting it on the ballot," she says. "The problem will be getting it passed."

City Manager Tom Barwin says such an initiative in Ferndale is "unprecedented." He also says that getting the measure passed will be difficult.

"But," Barwin says, "if the voters approve such an initiative, the city administration is going to be 110 percent supportive."

"It certainly is an intriguing idea," he adds. "This shows that Ferndale is an active laboratory of democracy."


If you want to aid the cause, contact the group at 248-545-4215 or 248-542-2016.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]