07/26/07 — WATCH will still be short on cash

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WATCH will still be short on cash

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 26, 2007 1:45 PM

It's been a better than usual year for WATCH, the mobile health program for uninsured and underinsured in Wayne County, but there are still some pressing needs as another fiscal year unfolds, the organization's director said.

During her report to the group's board Wednesday, Sissy Lee-Elmore, director of the Wayne Action Teams for Community Health program, shared a combination of good and bad news.

In the eight years since the program was introduced, more than 40,000 patient visits have been recorded and $3 million worth of medications given out, she said.

Recent grants and financial commitments from both the city and county have helped the program resume taking new patients and expand some of its services.

Counting on such funding will help as the budget is being prepared for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, she said. The down side, though, is WATCH will still be short about $41,900 in state funding that had been anticipated.

"I felt like we were on such a roll. We might break even, but we are still short," she said.

Several options for acquiring donations were bandied about by the group.

Board member Jimmie Ford suggested community support, because of the areas served -- from Mount Olive and Seven Springs to Fremont and Princeton.

"Every municipality should give some to WATCH, because it's all over Wayne County," he said.

Individual donations also add up, several said.

Board Chairman Murray Porter said that although most of the program's patrons cannot afford insurance, perhaps they could contribute something toward WATCH.

"They're highly encouraged to give," Ms. Lee-Elmore replied. An envelope is available in the van for that purpose.

Donations from patients accounted for $4,000 this past year, she added, with plans to make a conscious effort next year to double that amount.

Board member Jack Best urged her to strive for even more.

"I think you need to be aware of those people that can make a donation. There's nothing wrong with asking for a donation," he said. "If you got $5 per person, that could be the $41,000 you're talking about you're missing."

The program, Best said, is not for someone who's self-employed and just doesn't want to buy insurance.

"You have got to be careful handling people ... and we need to ask those folks for donations. We don't need to be scared of that. I think you ought to put your goal for donations from patients up to about $30,000. That's a stretch, but may be something you ought to do."

For the majority taking advantage of the health services, there is appreciation, even if not always reflected in dollars and cents, Ms. Lee-Elmore said. People generally give what they can.

"One lady came for four years; we helped her get disability. When she got her first check, she gave us $200. She was that grateful," she said.

The board was also asked to consider developing a no-show policy.

Ms. Lee-Elmore said there is a growing concern about forfeited appointments.

"(Patients) call and make an appointment like you would for your doctor and then don't show and don't call," she said. Likewise, she added, they had a patient make two appointments and then walk in to be seen without canceling the other appointments.

Dr. Ross Wilson, a new board member who also volunteers in the van one day a week, has witnessed the problem firsthand.

"It's really a three-ring circus -- the no-shows and walk-ins," he said. "I would say half of the ones that had scheduled for me didn't show up."

The problem is hard to track because the program is not computerized, Ms. Lee-Elmore said, but nevertheless needs to be enforced.

"There needs to be some sort of penalty -- if they don't show up two or three times, they can't make an appointment for three months," she said. "All the free clinics across the state have (a no-show policy)."

"It sounds like we need something," Porter said.