Originally published April 2, 2012
Carla Catalon-Scott gets excited when she talks about the Georgia Volunteer Health Care Program (GVHCP) as the Region 2 Coordinator. Catalon-Scott currently supports 28 partnering GVHCP clinics. She is not alone in her enthusiasm. There are five GVHCP regional coordinators covering Georgia in the North, Coastal, Atlanta, Central and Southwest regions helping to recruit licensed medical, dental and vision providers to volunteer in Georgia.
GVHCP has enabled almost 1,700 Georgia providers to volunteer 113,000 service hours and clinical resources, totaling 125,000 patient visits for the uninsured in Georgia. Collectively, the volunteer medical, dental and vision care is worth $15.6 million.
GVHCP's goal is to increase access to quality health care for indigent and low-income residents through volunteerism from the healthcare provider community. There is no cost to the individual providers (physicians, physician's assistants, nurses, dentists, etc.), nor to partnering clinics.
GVHCP was a concept of State Representative Mickey Channell and other state legislators. GVHCP was based on Florida's program and how the state served their uninsured by providing free health care to eligible patients. GVHCP is now a free service provided through the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) in locations statewide where there are partnering clinics and licensed health care professionals who provide donated care to eligible patients.
GVHCP began in 2005 when the Georgia Assembly passed the Health Share Volunteers in Medicine Act. Launched in August 2006, the GVHCP collaboration has grown from three partnering clinics to over 75 partnering clinics.
The stories of GVHCP's success are numerous.
A mother told Catalon-Scott after she received medical services from a partnering clinic, "now that my headache is gone and I have my blood pressure medication, I can be a better mom,"
"At the end of the day, it feels good knowing that my job helps recruit physicians, and dentists, and other providers, who provide free quality health care for uninsured and underinsured families," said Catalon-Scott.
Robyn Freeh, Region 3 Coordinator, shares the same passion to help needy Georgians access health services. Freeh has worked with GVHCP since its inception in 2006 and helped to coordinate the first clinic, FaithCare Clinic, in Evans, Georgia. "The highlight of my career is working with people who are driven to volunteer for GVHCP. To experience this dedication by volunteers is pure joy," said Freeh.
Region 3, which covers Macon to Augusta and Athens to Sylvania, has been fortunate to see existing clinics come under the GVHCP and help new ones develop. The clinics vary in operation from daily, weekly and monthly with some sponsored by churches, universities and free standing non-profit agencies.
Recently, Region 3 held a vision clinic at a hotel for some of the housekeeping staff, all of whom were uninsured. Freeh told PHWEEK that when the housekeepers were examined and received their eyewear, they responded with overwhelming gratitude. They told Freeh and the vision healthcare volunteers that they could perform their jobs better with the improved vision.
Like the others, Region 5 Coordinator Patricia Adamcak has also worked for GVHCP since its inception. "GVHCP is very well-received. Some communities wanted to start a free clinic but were discouraged by the liability aspect for providers. GVHCP brought a missing piece to the puzzle."
Adamcak recalls one particular GVHCP diabetic patient. "All of her siblings had diabetes and several had died of complications," said Adamcak. "She just assumed she, too, would die from diabetes because she couldn't afford treatment. She was in her 40s." GVHCP is literally giving Georgians hope to live longer and to live better.
The GVHCP's requirements are:
- Patients must not be charged for treatment in partnering free clinics. However, patients may pay for laboratory services and prescription drugs.
- Patients must be uninsured and at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
- They must be screened by an approved DPH volunteer and seen by a contracted provider.
"The GVHCP serves eligible Georgia residents who are too old for PeachCare for Kids, too young for Medicare or make too much money for Medicaid, but are in need of basic medical, dental and vision services," said Catalon-Scott.
Some of the free partnering clinics even offer limited specialty care. The donated clinical services help the working poor, as well as Georgia's indigent residents. According to the U.S. Census, Georgia currently has 1.9 million uninsured residents. The program provides care to those who would not normally receive care.
Georgia's volunteer medical, dental and vision professionals are true champions in Georgia and DPH recognizes the impact they have on the poor and uninsured in Georgia. Take the volunteer pledge and join the hundreds of licensed professionals who make a true difference everyday in Georgia. For more information on GVHCP, call Khaliah Smith at 404-656-9887.