Joanne Thurston, executive director for Bartow Health Access, said the new office at 320 Cherokee St., Suite 110, behind the Cartersville Public Library is a more central location.
"One of the things when you have people with limited means, is when you have to send them from place to place to place, it's very difficult for them so the more you can get in one building the better," she said. The American Red Cross also is housed in the same building.
Begun in 2008, Bartow Health Access has handled almost 10,000 patient visits, a small number in relation to those in need.
"We have seen a lot of people. Of course if you consider that with the unemployment rate in Bartow County at 11.5 to 12 percent, when it was 5 percent they said 18 percent of your population is unemployed. We figure probably around 30,000 people are uninsured on any given day," Thurston said. "So when we say we've seen 10,000 patient visits that's not a lot considering the potential that is out there."
Available to those who meet necessary criteria, Bartow Health Access provides a wide range of services to all ages. To qualify, people 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 $29,140 or less. In addition to working with about 55 health care providers ranging from family practitioners to cardiologists, who offer services at no charge or a reduced rate, the nonprofit also features a medication assistance program. Once the organization's staff completes an application, a qualified client can receive expensive medications for free.
Funded through donations, Thurston said the only thing Bartow Health Access gets through the government is office space, with Bartow County donating Suite 100. The organization does pay utilities on the location.
Covering a range of illnesses from HIV to the common cold, "the only thing that limits what we can do is the money and the place," according to Thurston. Donations are accepted through the website at www.bartowhealthaccess.org, by mail or through in-person visits.
Hoping to one day have its own building, Bartow Health Access is pursuing several grants.
"We are working on a couple of grants, one will be for our own building. Number two is to become an FQHC, which is a federally qualified health center," Thurston said. "Bartow County is medically underserved, so we have that distinction if we can get that done then we will start seeing patients ourselves.
"We'd like to hire a doctor and nurse practioner to see primary care visits and then just refer out specialists. That's our hope, is to start doing more stuff in house so that we can cut our costs and see more patients. However, the way we are doing it now, we have an average cost per patient of $51, which is the lowest of any clinic in the state of Georgia."
Beginning today, Bartow Health Access will once again take patient calls. For more information, call 678-535-7216.