06/12/05 — Coordinator helped bring care to needy

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Coordinator helped bring care to needy

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on June 12, 2005 2:00 AM

Once a week for two years, medical student Erik Kinzie left his classrooms behind for the casas of eastern North Carolina.

Usually he would board a small private plane at Chapel Hill's Horace Williams Airport and fly to Goldsboro-Wayne Airport. Gaspar Gonzalez would pick Kinzie up, and they would drive down dirt roads and rural routes to see people who needed, but couldn't afford to pay for, mental health services.

A typical day might include talking to battered wives in their homes, confronting a substance abuser at his job site or counseling neglected children.

Gonzalez, diversity coordinator for Eastpointe, had asked the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for help with an outreach campaign to the growing population of people without insurance or Medicaid coverage.

Kinzie volunteered for the duty, starting in 2002. He worked here for one year, moved to another location but returned last year. Flights were provided by the
Area Health Education Consortium, which transports medical students statewide.

In all, he made nearly 100 trips here and handled between 80 and 100 cases in Wayne, Duplin, Sampson and Lenoir counties.

Many of the people served were Hispanics and Latinos, although the campaign was not limited to them. All of the services, including drugs, were provided free of charge.

Looking back Thursday, both men were able to cite several success stories, including a Mount Olive teenager.

When they met her, she was 14 years old, a school dropout and living with a man who had sexually abused her for more than a year, knowing that as an illegal alien, she wouldn't go to the police or Social Services.

Over the course of a year, they were able to get her out of that home and back into school where she excelled as a student this year. She even served as a marshal during graduation, Gonzalez said.

The long road for Kinzie ended last week. He will graduate this week from the School of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has accepted a faculty position at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Kinzie is thankful he had this assignment. "You just don't get this type of experience anywhere but this part of the state, given your fast-growing Latino populations and the challenges that it provides," he said.

Eastpointe gave Kinzie a crystal plaque to thank him for his service.

The good news is that the agency will soon have the services of two UNC students, both of whom speak Spanish, as replacements. Anyone interested in knowing more about the outreach effort can call Gonzalez at 910-290-5400.