"There's a lot of other people who certainly have put their heart and soul into making this work," Tonsmeire said. "So I would say, 'thank you,' and know that it's on behalf of all those people that I will accept that honor. [The Bartow Health Access is] a vision that arose out of the meeting of [the] chaplains at the hospital. An idea takes shape and then you have people come together and they work together and so forth.
"So it's very satisfying, and I think [the nonprofit] fulfills a need. I don't know what the answer is about health care for people without excellent insurance but, I think, somewhere along the line there's got to be community solutions. ... I believe in local government and, I think, local people can take the initiative and get things done."
Since its inception in January 2008, the Cartersville nonprofit has assisted more than 10,000 uninsured residents with health-care referrals and medication assistance.
To qualify for these services, 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 55 health-care 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.
The third annual Radiothon generated $37,828 for Bartow Health Access. This year, the proceeds will help the nonprofit transition from a referral center to a primary health-care home. Along with hiring a physician, the BHA's future goals also include offering on-site mental health and dental services. Once a physician joins the staff, the organization will evolve into a primary health-care home that will operate on a sliding-fee scale in which Medicaid and Medicare will be accepted and patients must be at 250 percent or below the Federal Poverty Level.
"[The Radiothon proceeds are] going toward the expansion of services," BHA Executive Director Roberta Green said. "We are hiring a physician so that our patients don't have to be referred someplace [else]. So that they can be cared for right there in our own clinic. ... What will end up happening is patients will not have to take off time from work. This will eliminate kind of that middle step of getting a referral.
"They'll actually be able to come to our clinic, develop a relationship with their primary care doctor right here in our clinic. And this will serve as their doctor's office."
For more information about the nonprofit, call 678-535-7216 or visit www.bartowhealthaccess.org. On Thursday from 7 to 10 a.m., WBHF listeners can place contributions by calling 770-386-1450.