Neighbors Help Neighbors at Clinic for Uninsured in Bay City

Amy Barczy

| 3 min read

Amy Barczy is a brand journalist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and writes for and Prior to joining Blue Cross, she was a statewide news reporter for She has a decade of storytelling experience in local news media markets including Lansing, Grand Rapids, Holland, Ann Arbor and Port Huron.

Masked doctor comforts a masked older female patient
Every Wednesday night, a group of doctors, nurses and staff open the doors of a medical clinic near Bay City to offer health care to those who need it most. The clinic is there to meet the needs of those who are uninsured: from primary care including exams, lab work and X-rays, to medical supplies and prescriptions. Referrals are also available to dental partners. For the uninsured, the care is free. For the clinic staff, the pay is zero. That’s part of what makes the Helen M. Nickless Volunteer Clinic so special – and so longstanding. For the past 16 years, the clinic has served the uninsured population in the Bay County area using a dedicated team of volunteers. The clinic, which is hosted and managed by McLaren, would not be possible without numerous community partnerships and grants. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has provided the clinic with a Strengthening the Safety Net grant every year of since the clinic opened as part of our Social Mission. “The people involved have a huge heart,” said Magen Samyn, regional vice president of marketing and business development at McLaren. “It’s a passion. Supporting people in the community is paramount to who they are as individuals. They know they’re filling a gap.” The clinic serves people who don’t have health insurance. Without the clinic, many of these patients would not receive care – and any health issues they may have would become harder to treat and more expensive over time, Samyn said. About half of the patients surveyed by the clinic said they would go nowhere for health care if the clinic didn’t exist – which over time, could lead to issues at work and providing for their family if their health conditions worsened. The Helen M. Nickless Volunteer Clinic strengthens individuals, families and the entire community. “We’re very proud to offer this in our community,” Samyn said. Since the clinic opened in 2004, the clinic has served more than 9,000 patients and provided $3.3 million worth of free care. Over time, the average number of patients that seek care from the clinic has decreased from about 62 per night in 2009 to 20 per night in 2020. Samyn said that’s a good sign – that more people are qualifying for health insurance. The Helen M. Nickless Volunteer Clinic is located at the East Side Medical Mall at 1460 W. Center Road in Essexville. It operates Wednesdays beginning at 4 p.m. until the last patient is seen. It can be reached at (989) 895-4830. “The Helen M. Nickless Volunteer Clinic meets the needs of some of the most vulnerable in Bay County, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is honored to support their important work,” said Ken Hayward, Blue Cross vice president and special assistant to the president for Community Relations. “The providers and caregivers who volunteer their time at the clinic are to be commended for helping their neighbors access the care they need.” More from MIBluesPerspectives:
Photo credit: Getty Images

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