Photo by Heather Middleton
By Jeylin White
Arquella Reeves, 42, a resident of College Park, said she was recently hospitalized for three days, after having severe headaches, due to diabetes. She said, after being released from the hospital, she got a $600 bill, and could not afford to pay the bill and purchase her diabetes medicine for the month.
In search of financial assistance, Reeves called the United Way Foundation's 2-1-1 information line, and from there, was referred to Clayton Family Care, a homelessness-prevention agency in Forest, Park, that offers temporary financial assistance to residents in Clayton County.
"It was wonderful to get the help I needed from this agency," said Reeves. "It was a true blessing."
According to Jana Szeto, executive director of Clayton Family Care, her organization received a grant earlier this year, through the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministries Foundation, to help fund the prescription program.
"This is our first time getting funds through the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministries Foundation," said Szeto. "Through this grant, we are able to assist clients on a one-time basis, with prescription and medication expenses."
Will Bacon, the program director for the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation, said the foundation was created by the Georgia Baptist Convention, which is comprised of 3,600 churches throughout Georgia. He said a grant program was formed through the foundation, called, "Prescription Assistance," and agencies that work with financially struggling individuals in the community, were able to apply for grant funds.
Szeto said that, due to the substantial amount of funds received through the grant, her organization has been working to spread the word about the prescription program offered to those in need of temporary assistance.
"We know there is a need in the community," she said. "And people need help with purchasing their medication."
So far, she said, Clayton Family Care has been able to help 21 people with purchasing their prescriptions, but there's room to help more. She added that the organization has formed collaborations with local physicians and pharmacies in the community, including Southern Regional Medical Center's Diabetes Specialist, and Christians Pharmacy in Forest Park.
"I have also been in communication with the Clayton County Minister's Association," she said, "to get ministers to refer their congregations to our program."
John Chafin, the owner of Christians Pharmacy, expressed his concerns, specifically, for individuals who have diabetes and hypertension, who cannot afford to buy the medication they need. He said the prescription program offered at Clayton Family Care is a wonderful contribution to the community. However; he said, there's a "catch 22."
"Not having a prescription is the missing element," said Chafin. "People can't afford to go to the doctor, and if they can't get the prescription from the doctor, they can't get the medication."
Chafin said, because of this obstacle, he's working with other local physicians to help clients schedule doctor's appointments with The Good Shepherd Clinic, in Morrow, which offers free medical care to patients who do not have medical coverage.
"There's a critical need in Clayton County," he said. "People don't understand how expensive medication can cost, especially for people who have diabetes and hypertension."
Reeves agreed. She said being a single mother, and trying to take care of her diabetes, is financially challenging. She added that she takes three different medications for her diabetes and hypertension, four times a day. "I spend a total of $400 a month on my diabetes medication," said Reeves.
She said she is working, but the insurance offered through her job is a high-deductible plan, and her last visit to the hospital cost about $2,700. After her insurance "kicked in," she was left with a bill of $670.
"I don't receive any public assistance," she said, "and because I work, I can't get help from [a lot of other financial-assistant programs] because, according to them, I make too much [money]."
Reeves recalled a doctor's visit a few years back, when she was told, if she did not take care of herself, she would not see her son graduate. "My son is 7-years-old," she said. "This is devastating for a mother to hear something like this, when you work as hard I work to take care of myself and my son."
However, Chafin, of Christians Pharmacy, said, unfortunately, her situation is not uncommon, which is one of the reasons why he is so passionate about working with Clayton Family Care's Prescription Assistance Program.
"This is a serious situation," he said. "People are losing their jobs and insurance, and diabetes is an expensive disease."
Szeto said the agency has a cap of $300 in the financial assistance it provides for a person in need. She realizes there is a need for more, she said, but the policies of her organization set the limit. "This is why we are working with forming partnerships with other agencies in the community," she said, "to help further assist clients who come into our office."
Those interested in getting assistance through the prescription program, said Szeto, can contact Clayton Family Care, at (404) 366-5527, to schedule an appointment.