Lipphardt came to Wheeling in 1984, imported the “Health Right” concept, and championed its organization here. A core group made up of representatives from Northern Panhandle Behavioral Health Center, West Liberty State College, Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, Wheeling Hospital and Ohio Valley Medical Center established commitments from medical providers for free inpatient, outpatient, and laboratory services. A working board of directors formed, electing Nancy Lipphardt as president. Dr. Jeffrey Shultz of OVMC agreed to serve as the medical director of Wheeling Health Right.
The groups established the goals of the organization: provide basic primary health care to those persons unable to obtain such care through currently existing health programs; facilitate entry into currently existing programs for those unaware of the resources; and promote health. With a clear mission and firm commitments from health care providers, Wheeling Health Right was incorporated in August 1985.
St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church donated the first administrative office. The WV Department of Health made a base grant to hire an administrator and to launch clinical services. The first administrator, Phyllis Sharpenberg, was hired in April of 1986. Dr. Thomas Thomas of the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department allowed the clinic to set up in the WIC Program office (70 Fourteenth Street) on Monday evenings from 6 to 9 PM. The volunteer doctors and nurses greeted the first patients on September 8, 1986. By the second week there were fifteen patients. Working in collaboration with other social service agencies in the area, Wheeling Health Right did not duplicate services that were already available. A referral agreement was reached between these agencies and the clinic so that all available needed services could be offered.
By January 1987, Peggy Knuth (Ferguson), RN, FNP, was hired as the first paid clinical staff person. Knuth added nursing clinics to the schedule, which cut down on the onslaught faced by physicians on Monday nights. Physicians frequently treated acute health crises in those first months, as many in the community had long existed without any preventative care. Given the choice between food and shelter for their family or health care, they were forced to delay treatment for many severe medical conditions.
In 2016 Wheeling Health Right launched a Dental Clinic to help thousands of under-served people in the Northern Panhandle in partnership with the WV Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (WVAFFC). Wheeling Health Right has been working for years to address the unmet needs of the community we serve. Since the ACA, including expanded Medicaid and the Marketplace, do not address adult dental care, it seemed natural for the clinic to move to address this unmet need and bring dental health care to the primary care setting in the Ohio Valley. Local Dentists and WVU Dental Students provide dental services to Wheeling Health Right patients.