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Free Clinic Opens In Rockaway Park To Fill Void Left By Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Nearly a year after superstorm Sandy made landfall and devastated much of the region, some health care facilities are still struggling to get back to full operations.

As CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez reported, a group in the Rockaways is pitching in with a free health clinic to meet the long-term needs of the storm-battered area.

The Rockaways is a community still recovering and rebuilding. While the power is back, the heat is on and many residents are back in their homes, one service that is still lacking is health care, Gomez reported.

Doctors of the World USA has opened a free clinic in Rockaway Park to treat residents even if they don't have health insurance.

"A lot of the doctors offices have closed down and not really reopened again, so there's still a huge gap in the number of providers in the area," Dr. Amber Featherstone, medical director for the Rockaway Free Clinic, told Gomez.

The post-storm woes only served to further complicate issues that existed even before Sandy hit.

"Nearly a quarter of the population is without health insurance, similar numbers lives below the poverty level," Noah Barth of Doctors of the World said.

Lifelong Rockaways resident Damon Dalton said he has had to contend with both problems.

The diabetic man has been unemployed since the storm and said staying healthy this past year has been a challenge.

"The back and forth trying to get the daily stuff that people need. Since Sandy, it's been pretty difficult to get the basic care that I'm used to," he told Gomez.

The clinic, which opened last weekend, will help fill a desperate need for health care in the community, Gomez reported.

The clinic is open on Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"Particularly because there is a geriatric population so you're going to see more chronic diseases; diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease," Featherstone said. "If you can take care of them on an ongoing basis, it'll keep people out of the emergency room and out of the hospital. They're healthier, we save money as a health care system."

In addition to medical care, Catholic Charities will provide social workers and case management at the free clinic, while mental health services will be provided by the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

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