"Bartow Health Access has served close to 2,000 patient visits already this year," said Joanne Thurston, executive director for Bartow Health Access, which opened in January 2008. "We saw 3,400 all of last year and we have provided over $749,000 worth of medical care this year.
"According to statistics, with the unemployment rate where it is a third of Bartow County residents could be without health insurance. So we're only meeting a small [number] but we're only constrained by the funds we have. This [fundraiser] is something where every dollar somebody donates stays in Bartow County and helps their neighbor, someone from Bartow County, because you don't know if your neighbor doesn't have insurance or if they're sick. A lot of times they're not going to tell you."
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 $29,140 or less. In addition to working with 56 healthcare 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.
Since Bartow Health Access receives no state or federal monetary assistance, the organization relies solely on community donations for its funding. Through the public's support, $201,000 was raised last year for the organization's programs budget, which gave clients access to $1.6 million of medical care.
In 2009, the Radiothon generated about $26,000 for Bartow Health Access. By calling 770-386-1450 or visiting the radio station on Thursday, listeners can place contributions, which will be matched, and have their pledges announced on air, if desired. Other features of the benefit include interviews with Bartow Health Access representatives and clients, and Cartersville Medical Center is going to conduct free blood pressure and blood sugar tests in front of the radio station at 7 N. Wall St. in Cartersville.
"We've averaged about $4,000 an hour for the last three years," said Lee Burger, BHA board member and program director for WBHF, about generating money for Bartow Health Access. "We just think that's a great response -- raising anywhere from $12,000 to $13,000 and then having it matched.
"With that money we're able to give our clients lab work, X-rays, doctor's visits. Just with that money, we can help about 65 full-time clients of ours. We have a limit of $400, and then with that money we also give about 650 office visits at $40 apiece. So we can do a lot with that money."
With the Radiothon featuring interviews with the Bartow Health Access' staff and clients, Thurston said that the exposure the nonprofit receives from the benefit is immeasurable. At the program, they are able to share success stories with the public, such as the transformation of a 36-year-old man, who sought help at the nonprofit in April.
"This individual came because he had lost 25 pounds," Thurston said. "He was becoming debilitated. He couldn't walk. He had a walker. Actually his jaw had locked. He couldn't even chew. He was living off of the liquid nutrients and he had nowhere else to go. So we got him to a neurologist and come to find out he had a very rare infection and now he's wonderful. ... That's what makes [this job] worthwhile. You get frustrated sometimes but when you see one of those [stories] you go, 'OK, now I know why we're here.'"
For more information about Bartow Health Access, call 678-535-7216. Located at 550 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Cartersville, the nonprofit is open Tuesdays from 9 to 5 p.m., and Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. by appointment. In addition to participating in the Radiothon, interested individuals can place a donation, which can be read on air, prior to the Thursday event by calling 770-386-1450.