Taking a step closer to attaining this goal, the organization entered a memorandum of agreement with Bartow County government Wednesday.
"That was an MOA between Bartow Health Access and the county because there's a grant requirement that you have to have 20 years of continued use of a facility if you are using grant funds," said Julie Haigler, Bartow County grant specialist, adding the $498,646 Community Development Block Grant was awarded to the nonprofit in September 2011. "And it was just saying that Bartow Health Access agrees that they will use the building for health services for low-income individuals for 20 years, and if not, it goes back into the county's name. ... The [grant] funds will be used to purchase a building and it's going to be used to renovate.
"It's a [5,000]-square-foot building on Pointe North across from the movie theater -- 2,500 is finished and 2,500 is nonfinished and it's going to be [used] to renovate the finished side and to build out the unfinished side. And it will provide healthcare needs, mental health needs and dental health needs."
For Jane McElreath, president of Bartow Health Access' board of directors, the added space will provide the opportunity to expand the nonprofit's offerings.
"We have a contract on the new building and we're going to be closing probably within the next month on our new building. We're very excited about that," McElreath said. "It means [we will have] a whole lot more room to expand. We are operating now in a room in the Red Cross building behind the library. We are very crowded. We are only operating all day Tuesday, 9 through 12 Wednesday and Thursday.
"Our goal is to become a full-time clinic open full time. Our goal is to hire our own physician. Right now the clinic is a referral clinic. We refer out to physicians in town. There's a lot more that we could be doing to help people in Bartow County, the uninsured and people who desperately need medical help."
In the past four years, the Cartersville nonprofit -- presently located at 320 W. Cherokee Ave., Suite 110 -- has assisted more than 10,000 uninsured residents with healthcare referrals and medication assistance.
To qualify, individuals must reside in Bartow; have no health insurance; and be at 200 percent or below the Federal Poverty Level, for example a two-person household would have a combined income of $29,420 or less. In addition to working with about 50 healthcare providers ranging from family practitioners to dentists, who offer services at no charge or a reduce rate, the nonprofit also features a prescription assistance program. Once the organization's staff completes an application, a qualified client can receive certain medications free of charge.
"You would think that the patients that we see fit a certain demographic but they don't," said Kim Young, a registered nurse at Bartow Health Access. "We get a lot of patients that had very good income but now they're unemployed and have lost their insurance. [Also] a lot of people don't realize that when you file for disability you have to be on disability for two years before insurance kicks in. So we sort of fill that gap. [We also assist] patients who are old enough for Social Security but they don't draw enough Social Security that they can afford to pay the Medicare premiums every month.
"So there could be somebody on your street, somebody next door, that would qualify for us and you wouldn't even realize it. These are patients a lot of times that have to choose, 'Am I going to pay my power bill or am I going to get my prescription?' It's pretty crucial the need that we're able to fill. For example, I handle prescription assistance, and I have some patients that every three months will get [$4,000] or $5,000 worth of medication because [for] a lot of them, it's not just one medical issue. They might have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems and all of those medications add up when you have to pay retail. And we are able to acquire those for our patients at no cost from the drug companies."
For more information about Bartow Health Access, call 678-535-7216 or visit www.bartowhealthaccess.org.