07/28/06 — WATCH weighs financial needs

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WATCH weighs financial needs

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 28, 2006 1:47 PM

Wayne Action Teams for Community Health is working under a shortfall this year, the director told the organization's board of directors this week.

WATCH Executive Director Sissy Lee-Elmore said that even though grant money is getting harder to come by, she will continue to seek financial support for the program that provides health care for the under- and uninsured in the community.

She told the board she has to come to "beg with dignity" on behalf of WATCH and its patrons.

Board member Cindy Archie said the idea of a free clinic means that communities must be enlisted to support the efforts.

"A lot of these kinds of clinics are funded by churches," she said, explaining the effort goes beyond a donation here and there. In some areas, the faith community backs the clinics on a regular basis as part of their mission, she said.

Securing funds from local sources is always a good line of defense, board member Gwyn Wilson said.

"A lot of grants, they ask what local funding we're getting. We're not really getting any," she said.

Board chairman Murray Porter said that when WATCH started, the city of Goldsboro was approached and had committed $5,000 to launch the program. The city had not opted to continue providing monetary support, however, he added.

The decision was later made to request funding from the county. Mrs. Lee-Elmore said that three years ago, the commission designated $20,000 to the program, which it replicated the following year.

Last year, she said, $50,000 was appropriated. So this year, when WATCH made its plea, it was for $100,000; the commission decided to give $50,000.

To presume that the commission will automatically increase funding sets a dangerous precedent, said board member Jack Best, who is also a commissioner.

"The county thinks that we have so many things that are mandated to us, that these things that are not mandated such as yourselves (WATCH), should be looked at pretty hard," he said.

"They're there to help anybody get started on something, but to go back every year and be on their dole list, so to speak, I'm not sure that'll happen every year. You need to be careful about that."

Best suggested one approach would be to "take ammunition when you go to them" to justify the savings for the county by operating WATCH.

"That's about the only position you have," he said.

"We're probably saving the county some, Jack, and the city and the hospital," Porter replied.

Best said the county manager as well as the commission need to be sold on anything that requires funding.

"Some do not think we should step out of the mandated" positions, he said.

Several board members discussed the possibility of plugging into federal dollars.

Board member James Roosen, who is the Wayne County health director, said it is difficult, but recommended contacting Sen. G.K. Butterfield about the possibility.

"I have already talked to him once about this," he said. "That's a policy change that needs to occur on the federal level."

Board member George Mayo said it would be useful to come up with numbers to substantiate the program's value to the community.

"What portion of the patients would have to be treated with money coming out of the county ... would be seen in the hospital's emergency room if they couldn't take advantage of WATCH?" he asked.

"There's a lot of people in the community that need care that can't afford care," said William Paugh, board member and chief executive officer at Wayne Memorial Hospital.

Porter said the debate is one that will be ongoing.

"We have been successful so far. Fundraising has come from a lot of different areas. We just have to get serious about this," he said.