Mission & Services

To provide free primary health care services to individuals who lack access to medical care, through a culturally diverse volunteer-supported organization with emphasis on education, empowerment and outreach.

The Washington Free Clinic, the oldest free clinic and one of the most comprehensive health-care providers in the District of Columbia, was established in 1968. The Washington Free Clinic provides these services:

  • Primary medical care
  • Family planning and reproductive health services
  • Prenatal care and pediatric care
  • HIV counseling and testing
  • Medical services to patients with HIV and AIDS.


OVERALL CARE: In recent years, increased funding has allowed the Clinic to hire new staff to enhance capacity to care for HIV positive patients. In 2003, the Clinic provided comprehensive care to 118 HIV+ clients. A Federal contract has enabled the Clinic to hire two part time MDs with HIV expertise, to provide primary and specialty care to patients several times each month, – in addition to phone consultation to the full-time physician assistant. As an adjunct to medical care, the Clinic provides ongoing case management support to HIV+ DC residents to help them maintain and improve their quality of life, and increase their ability to adhere to treatment plans.

TESTING AND PREVENTION: The Clinic actively promotes HIV prevention among high-risk groups, and last year tested and counseled over 600 at-risk individuals. In 2003 clinic staff and volunteers provided anonymous and confidential HIV testing and counseling to the homeless at Miriam’s Kitchen, and to prostitutes through the HIPS project (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive), well as to the general public.

In 2003, the Washington Free Clinic served as the primary care provider for almost 1,000 medically underserved DC residents. Without the Clinic, patients would have paid more than $100 for an ER visit, or gone untreated. Primary care services include, but are not limited to: treatment for diabetes, hypertension, HIV infection and heart disease; preventative services such as breast and cervical cancer screening, family planning, gynecological care, and vaccinations. The Clinic also provides clients with free medicines and diagnostic testing.

In addition to primary care services, the Clinic offers specialty care for prenatal and pediatric patients. In 2003, prenatal and postpartum care was provided to 147 women and well-baby care provided to 98 children, including well-baby check-ups, sick visits, and immunizations. Pregnant women received not only comprehensive prenatal care and referral for delivery, but special attention to help them better care their newborns. The clinic also provides a wide range of gynecologic services and family planning.

Prenatal Care – Patients enrolled in prenatal care receive regular visits with certified nurse midwives throughout their pregnancies. In addition, they receive childbirth education, nutrition education, and other support services.

Pediatric Care– The pediatric services of the clinic target those infants and young children born to mothers in the prenatal program. Most children are Medicaid eligible; however the application process is slow and difficult, especially for non-English speaking patients. The ability to provide well-baby care and post- partum care enhances the continuity of services to new mothers and their families. The Free Clinic provides assistance with Medicaid and CHIP applications and insures that children are enrolled with appropriate providers when the applications are complete. The pediatric nurse practitioner faculty from Catholic University and the pediatric program of Georgetown University Hospital support this program.

Childbirth – Arrangements are made for Free Clinic Patients to deliver at local hospitals. Once a patient selects the hospital of their choice, Clinic staff assist in the registration process and communicate with hospital staff as needed to ensure

The clinic provides care to women from their teens through their reproductive years. Many older women rely on the Free Clinic for post-menopausal gynecological care and other services.

Pregnancy Testing – Patients must call in advance for this service.

Emergency Contraception – Patients must call in advance for this service.

Family Planning – The Clinic provides family planning information and counseling on a wide variety of methods.

Annual Exams – The clinic provides annual screening for cervical abnormalities that may lead to cancer and is able to provide follow-up services for abnormal PAP smears on site. Breast examinations include teaching self breast examinations and referral for free screening and diagnostic mammography as needed.

See the Planned Parenthood web site for more information about reproductive issues.

In 2003 the Clinic launched an innovative outreach program to address the growing problem of diabetes among Hispanic adults. Under this program, six members of the neighboring Hispanic community were trained as lay educators to provide education and outreach to the community, and work with Clinic patients to help them better manage illness.


  • 2000 individuals served
  • 600 at-risk clients tested and counseled for HIV infection
  • 118 HIV+ clients treated
  • 98 children immunized
  • 993 primary care visits
  • 147 prenatal care clients


Restoring Hope
George* is a senior citizen. HIV+, he lived for years with a sister who was mentally and emotionally abusive. Unable to walk, he could not find a way to escape his situation. During a period of hospitalization, a Clinic case manager located a place for George at Gift of Peace, a home for people living with HIV/AIDS. Now he participates in a day treatment program for mental health at the Washington Hospital Center. George has made significant progress since his move, learning to socialize and enjoying time with the other patients.

Back on Their Feet
52 years old and unemployed, Margaret* first came to the clinic debilitated by excruciating pain in her feet. After an initial assessment at the Clinic, Margaret received a shot that allowed her to walk without pain for the first time in years. She came back to the Clinic to obtain a physical for a job opportunity she learned of through a Clinic volunteer, where she is now gainfully employed.

Building Healthy Lives
Mac* complained of ulcer-related pain on his first visit to the Clinic. A diagnostic visit revealed that he was indeed diabetic. Originally treated with an oral drug and educated about nutrition and health maintenance, Mac now manages his diabetes without medication and through regular check-ups. He returns to the Clinic regularly now as a volunteer.

Healthy Babies, Healthy Families
Pregnant and lacking any knowledge of prenatal care, Gloria* barely spoke English when she first came to the Clinic. She was uninsured and unable to pay sliding scale fees at other public and private clinics. With the help of Clinic staff, Gloria changed her lifestyle and began receiving regular prenatal care. Months later she delivered a healthy baby boy, and now speaks enough English to discuss her health concerns, and participates in postpartum care and the Clinic’s family planning program.

Turning Lives Around
Juan* first came to the Clinic as a walk-in, extremely ill and living on the streets. A Clinic case manager worked with him to immediately assess his illness and secure him a place at Joseph’s House hospice center. Upon admittance, hospice staff believed Juan might soon die. Months later, Juan has made a remarkable recovery. He has moved out of the hospice, secured a job, and is soon to marry.