Photo by Heather Middleton
By Joel Hall
Kaiser Permanente of Georgia recently selected 24 free and reduced-cost health clinics throughout the state to receive $1.6 million in grants, through the Kaiser Permanente Fund for Community Benefit. Morrow's Good Shepherd Clinic, which offers free primary medical care to residents of Clayton County, is scheduled to receive $50,000 from the program by the month's end.
Gustavo Machado, media relations specialist with Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, said Kaiser Permanente has been offering Community Benefit grants since 1985, when the nonprofit health-care company began operating in Georgia. Machado said the Good Shepherd Clinic has qualified for grants before, receiving $20,000 in 2007 and $100,000 in 2008.
"It [Kaiser Permanente] has about 16 medical centers in the metro-Atlanta area, one of which is in Clayton County," Machado said. "There is a deep relationship with the community and the local medical center. We are actually the largest not-for-profit health plan in the state of Georgia ... part of our mission is to contribute through grants. These [grants] are specifically given to safety-net clinics who serve those who are not insured or underinsured. The Good Shepherd Clinic very clearly filled the need for that grant request, and that's why they were selected."
Other safety-net clinics which received grants this year include: Fayette CARE Clinic, which received $50,000 to enlarge its dental program; Henry County's Hands of Hope Clinic, which received $95,000 to increase and maintain its paid and volunteer medical, dental, and clerical staff; and AIDGwinnett, which received $95,000 to provide bilingual registered-nurse services to those in Gwinnett, Rockdale, and Newton counties living with AIDS.
According to Lisa Page, administrator of the Good Shepherd Clinic, its recent $100,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente helped fund an expansion which allowed for four new outpatient rooms, a doctor's office, and a lab. The expansion allowed the clinic to increase its patient load from 1,888 patients in 2008 to 2,649 patients in 2009.
Page said the $50,000 grant will help the clinic add a part-time phlebotomist and a part-time medical technician, and will help expand its diabetes and hypertension-prevention programs.
"We're going to see if we can provide patient education to work on chronic-disease management," Page said. "Whether it be hypertension or diabetes, we are going to try to provide some better monitoring. If you spend time talking about foot care with diabetics, you are going to lower your risk of neuropathy. If you can get control of the blood pressure, you can lower the risk of heart attack and cardio problems."
L.C. Thomas, chairman of the Good Shepherd Clinic board of directors, said the donation will eventually free the clinic to see more new patients and fewer chronically ill patients.
"The amount of diabetics in America is growing all the time," Thomas said. "When you can control your weight and diet, you can control the amount of medications you have to take. If we can get people to do this more and more, the more funds we can spend on [other] medications. If the patient gets well, they don't have to see us as often and we can expand and see other patients.
"They've [Kaiser Permanente] been a great supporter of the clinic," he added. "We're glad that they remembered us and approve of what we are doing."
Machado said the grants are part of creating a healthier community.
"We realize there are people who need health care and can't afford it," Machado said. "The idea is to strengthen the safety net that free clinics provide."
Machado said the Good Shepherd Clinic, and the 23 other grant recipients, will receive their grant money by the end of the month.