12/18/11 — WATCH seeking volunteers as patient load continues upswing

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WATCH seeking volunteers as patient load continues upswing

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 18, 2011 1:50 AM

One of the busiest medical offices in the county is showing no signs of slowing down.

WATCH (Wayne Action Teams for Community Health) which features a clinic at the YMCA and a mobile van that traverses the county, is "swamped," its executive director, Sissy Lee-Elmore recently told its board.

"The parking lot is overrun," she said, noting that on one particularly busy day recently staff handled 73 patients.

Volunteers are a big asset for the program, she said. In its 11 years of service, the organization's volunteer hours are upwards of 13,000.

"We couldn't do it without everybody's help," Mrs. Lee-Elmore said, giving a nod to the county commission and city for lending financial support in recent years.

In September, commissioners appropriated $100,000 from contingency funds to help offset the loss of WATCH grant money.

At that meeting, Mrs. Lee-Elmore said she was making an appeal for $100,000 each from the commission and Wayne Memorial Hospital to make up for the loss of a $200,000 Duke Endowment grant. This was the first year that WATCH did not receive that funding.

The grant pays salaries for the family nurse practitioner and support staff in the stationary clinic at the Y. The hospital, she added, has historically paid her salary and benefits as well as overhead on the program, maintenance on the WATCH truck and provides many of the program's medical supplies.

She told the board she intends to reapply for the Duke money in January and pursue other funding options.

This past July, the city council approved a $20,000 donation to WATCH, drawn from the previous year's allocation that had been rolled over for distribution.

At the WATCH board's year-end meeting last week, Mrs. Lee-Elmore declined comment on the funding situation.

"We'll need volunteers," she said. "But I don't want to talk about the money right now."

Board members, though, expressed appreciation for the contributions WATCH has made to the community.

"There are people (volunteers) out there who are doing it every day in the trenches, making a huge difference in the lives of (residents)," board member Harold Brashear said.

"If I go other places and they hear what I'm doing, they're just so impressed," said Kathy Johnson, nurse practitioner at the YMCA site.

Patients, too, are grateful for the service, she added, especially when they relocate and realize similar services are not as plentiful.

"Patients move away and ask, 'Isn't there something like this?' We're so lucky. I don't think we even realize how lucky we are," she said. "These people just don't have care.

"I don't know of any place that has got funding like we have for 11 years. I just wish we could have a legislator sit in a corner every day and hear these people's stories. It's edifying to hear their struggles and what they do to make ends meet."

Board member Jack Best, also a county commissioner, said, "When you sit down and think about our budget, what WATCH saves every year, it's a bargain."

The board also recognized James Roosen, chairman for the past year. Roosen, who recently retired as health director with Wayne County Health Department, had been on the board since 2004.