Juli Miller cut into a cake during the Moab Free Health Clinic’s 10th anniversary celebration on Thursday, Feb. 15. The clinic recently hired Miller as its new executive director. [Photo by Murice D. Miller / Moab Sun News]

The new executive director of the Moab Free Health Clinic wasn’t looking for a job last October when she heard about the clinic’s open position.

As health program manager for the Utah Department of Health in Salt Lake City, Juli Miller happened to be in town with the state’s mobile dental clinic.

Born and raised in Salt Lake, Miller first visited Moab when she was a college student. Impressed with the red-rock scenery, she thought at that time she might retire in Moab, she said. But the job announcement for a new health clinic executive director “kept poking” at her, and so she applied – along with several other candidates from across the nation.

“I’m passionate about the program and what they’re doing there,” said Miller, who started in January.

“We were looking for someone with experience working with underserved populations – that was important to us,” clinic board of directors member Cassie Paup said. “We also wanted someone with grant writing experience, and financial management of a nonprofit – someone who can help us stretch and grow. Finding someone to fit that bill was a bit of a search. We’re really happy with Juli.”

In addition to her grant-writing and overall education and experience working in public health and nonprofit administration, Miller received a certificate of completion from the University of Utah Nonprofit Academy of Excellence – a program for individuals with executive experience to gain education in running nonprofits.

Miller, 45, spent seven-and-a-half years working in a rural Wyoming clinic, for the Wyoming Department of Health, so she’s familiar with the challenges of small communities accessing affordable health care, she said.

The Moab Free Health Clinic, at 380 N. 500 West, serves the uninsured and the underinsured. It offers primary care, mental health counseling, free and confidential sexually transmitted disease testing, prescription assistance and low-cost blood draws and lab tests. The clinic also provides assistance for people signing up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

One of the clinic’s founding members, and longtime volunteer Danette Johnson, recalled her motivation years ago for helping to open the free health clinic. She was newly divorced, and a single mother without health insurance.

“I grew up in Canada, so not having health care was never something I dealt with,” she said.

Paup refers to Johnson as “our unsung hero,” and said that “this clinic wouldn’t exist without her.”

Johnson, who serves as board chairwoman, credits a lot of people with helping to found the clinic, which opened in 2008. A large donation from the late Hans Weibel and his wife Madeleine helped the clinic purchase its own building in April 2016.

While a recommended donation of $15 is appreciated for office visits, the clinic does not turn anyone away, Miller said. The clinic is supported primarily through private donations, and grants. Mental health counseling has a suggested donation of $5 per session or $30 for the entire course of six to eight sessions, according to the clinic’s web site.

All of the clinic’s medical providers are volunteers who work a half-day each month. The wait time for an appointment is typically three weeks. The organization is striving to decrease wait times in the future by enlisting additional volunteer medical providers.

The clinic draws on volunteer medical providers from Moab; Grand Junction, Colorado; and other cities – volunteers who are retired, or still working full time at other practices.

“We’re always striving to grow our doctor repertoire of volunteers,” Paup said.

Additionally, Miller said she is hoping to hire a full-time clinical director, who is a mid-level provider such as a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner, who can help recruit additional volunteer medical providers, and also care for patients three-quarters of the time.

Other goals include adding dental care to the clinic’s array of services; finding new funding sources; and building collaborative partnerships and strong relationships with community organizations, she said.

“One of the exciting things about Juli is her experience running clinics for the underserved,” Paup said. “We’re poised to grow. We need services more than ever. We will have the capacity to expand into dental services at some point.”

Antje Rath is a board member and volunteer mental health counselor for the clinic. In the nearly seven years she’s been involved with the clinic, each new hire has left a positive mark at the clinic, she said, and she expects the addition of Miller will help the clinic grow even further.

“She’s very personable, and approachable,” Rath said. “She has a passion for nonprofit work. And she’s competent.”

A small 10-year anniversary celebration took place at the clinic on Thursday, Feb. 15. It was also an opportunity to meet Miller. However, if you missed the event – no worries – there will be plenty of opportunities for the public to meet her; a more formal anniversary celebration will take place later this year, Miller said.

“She’s good at public outreach – she’s already hit the ground running,” Paup said. “We couldn’t be happier.”

Over the past six years AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers have also lent their support to the clinic, with two VISTA volunteers currently serving there.

“That’s been incalculable in moving our capacity-building to the next level,” Paup said. “We also have a part-time paid nurse who does case management and follow-up care.”

Miller is the mother of four sons, ages 18 to 24, the oldest of whom attends the University of Wyoming. The family enjoys all of the outdoor recreation opportunities that Moab offers, Miller said.

Juli Miller hopes to add dental care in future

One of the exciting things about Juli is her experience running clinics for the underserved.

For more information about the clinic, call 435-259-1113, or go to: moabfreehealthclinic.org.