Published 12:00 am Friday, March 1, 2013

SALISBURY — For the uninsured, staying healthy can be a difficult proposition when costs make getting needed care difficult.
Now, thanks to a grant from the Rowan County United Way, some locals will have more access to preventative care.
The Community Initiative Grant will allow Community Care Clinic medical staff and volunteers to visit the Rowan Helping Ministries overnight shelter each month, where those staying at the shelter can receive check-ups and basic tests to identify health problems.
Thursday, the first of those on-site clinics was held, providing 12 uninsured locals with what Rowan Helping Ministries Executive Director Kyna Foster described as “the first checkup, for most, in many years.”
“Man, I tell you, I’ve been needing some kind of help,” said David Abbot, who added that he’s been at the shelter for a number of months after losing his job as an equipment operator.
In one of the Rowan Helping Ministries offices, converted to an exam room with a table donated by Rowan Regional Medical Center, Dr. David Smith went over Abbot’s health history.
Abbot said he was very glad to have a chance see a doctor.
The clinic’s basic screening is designed to track known health issues, and to identify any unknown ones.
Doing so, Smith said, will help prevent major, and costly, health problems later on.
“These are the people we’ve got to get to,” said Smith, medical director for Community Care Clinic.
Without insurance or income, those who don’t qualify for public assistance often don’t see a doctor until there’s an emergency.
Not only is a hospital emergency room not designed to give primary care, Smith said, but when the uninsured patient can’t pay the bill, that cost is passed on to other patients.
Smith said that the monthly well-person checkups will help patients control diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, among other conditions.
“That helps keep people out of the hospital, keeps them feeling better and reduces mortality,” Smith said.
Foster said a study contracted by the Rowan County United Way found that health care access was the county’s number-one need.
Currently, those at the shelter who have an illness can be fast-tracked for care, but there has been no means of getting many uninsured patients access to a regular check-up.
Krista Woolly, executive director of Community Care Clinic, said the expanded partnership is a goal she has looked forward to since taking the job nine months ago.
“We’re realizing that collaboration really is key” to avoiding long-term health issues for those in need, Woolly said.
The group’s Mocksville Avenue clinic location already provides care, but the clients Rowan Helping Ministries serves often don’t have transportation, she said.
“(Foster) and I have just been brainstorming about how to do this,” Woolly said.
Finally, she said, it was Dr. Smith’s idea to move their services to the offices of Rowan Helping Ministries.
Foster said the grant anticipates more future cooperation between the two agencies.
The charity’s new shelter and office complex, currently under construction at 226 N. Long St., will feature dedicated space for Community Care Clinic, Foster said.
She said Rowan Helping Ministries, the clinic and others “are working to help people who are in poverty … figuring out ways that we can better serve.”
“To me this is a huge step in that direction,” Foster said.
After the first year, funded by the United Way grant, Foster said individual and corporate donations will help sustain the program.
Nickalaus Goodman, member of the Community Care Clinic board and a part-time paramedic for Rowan County EMS, said he was glad for the opportunity to volunteer and to provide a new type of care.
“The patients are really receptive, they really value your care,” Goodman said.
And, Foster said, “if you can overcome some health care issues, you’re better able to go to work and go on with your life.”

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.