June 24, 2002

Our Town: In Floyd

Our Town: In Floyd We Trust

I am spending more time where I live these days, including the 'rural/progressive' geography for which this blog is named: Floyd County and Floyd, the town. Unique place, I am recalling with delight. If you can't find it here, you probably don't need it. If you can't afford what you find, well, just barter. Even for healthcare.

Nobody could call the Barter Clinic a typical doctor's office. Nor could anybody call Dr. Susan Osborne, D.O., a typical doctor. A member of Floyd County High School's class of '79, she returned home a few years ago to open a clinic with a different attitude toward health care.

"We take chickens," Dr. Osborne says with a smile. That's her shorthand answer for why she calls her practice the Barter Clinic. The long answer: while she certainly accepts the more conventional methods of payment, her patients have the option of trading goods or services for their medical care. People have traded garden vegetables, cleaning help, plumbing skills, child care, and more. She will even accept a patient's work on a community service project, supervised by herself or a member of her staff, as payment. Sometimes it's something as simple as helping do chores for another patient who is elderly, or volunteering time at a free clinic. "Those sorts of things can often help in healing," Dr. Osborne says, "and they certainly aid in community building,"

Sue sees usually eight patients a day. She told me once she sort of hoped one day to make a five-figure income, so she could eventually pay back her school loans. Do the math.

Or, if your chickens flew the coop, pay with the "money" that is printed in Floyd, by Floydians, to stay in Floyd County. The blue bills are called Floyd Hours.

Hours are real money, backed not by the federal government but by dozens of Floyd folks who have agreed to take them as payment for math tutoring, piano lessons, gardening, bonsai trees, driveway repair, custom belt buckles, pizza, hammocks, marriage counseling and almost anything else that can be done, raised, made, sung or played in Floyd County.

The notes are decorated by local artists and bear phrases such as "economic kinship with our land" and "exchange your services & goods locally." Each bears a dot that at first appears to be a spaghetti sauce stain, but is in fact a special temperature-sensitive ink used to deter counterfeiters. Touch it for several seconds and it changes color just a little.

Gotta love it. There's no place like home.

Posted by fred1st at June 24, 2002 06:50 AM
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