WV Health Right was founded in 1982 by a small group of physicians and nurses who recognized the need for a source of ongoing health care for the low-income uninsured in Charleston, WV. Initially, the services were provided mostly to homeless people who utilized the St. John’s Episcopal Church Manna Meal program. Soon the clinic moved to Covenant House, a drop in center that provided a food pantry, clothing, and emergency funds, where it shared space with other services for the homeless. In the beginning, the clinic operated two nights per week and was staffed on a rotating basis by a volunteer group that grew to approximately 12 physicians, 30 nurses, and 15 receptionists.
In 1983, the Charleston Area Medical Center offered WV Health Right free use of an old hospital building. Soon the clinic was serving more than 60 patients per night—and demand continued to grow. It became necessary to expand to daytime hours as well as evenings. In May 1989, clinic staff learned that the old hospital would be demolished. Soon the clinic that cared for the homeless would be homeless itself. The community rallied around WV Health Right and helped locate a 4,000 square foot building on Smith Street, near what is now the Capitol Market. Area hospitals, businesses, foundations, and individuals contributed funds to enable WV Health Right to purchase and renovate the building. WV Health Right operated from the Smith Street location for the next 10 years as patient numbers grew from 2,900 to 9,128.
By the mid-90s the clinic had outgrown the Smith Street site and again undertook a construction project for a new 14,000 square foot building in Charleston’s East End. In 1999, the clinic moved into a new state-of-the-art facility that was designed and built to be used as a free clinic. In 2001, WV Health Right added a three chair dental operatory on the second floor of the building and began West Virginia’s first free adult dental clinic.
In early 2008, WV Health Right expanded its pharmacy and launched WVRx, the first statewide charitable central fill mail order pharmacy designed to provide prescription access to the estimated 400,000 West Virginians who are uninsured or underinsured. In 2015, the clinic also integrated behavioral health services for its patients.
In FY 2015, WV Health Right provided primary and specialty medical, dental, vision, behavioral health, pharmaceutical, and health education services to nearly 20,000 patients through the commitment of more than 400 volunteers.