Organizations: Open Arms Clinic
A former patient of the Open Arms Clinic of Toccoa recently walked in and presented a $1,000 donation.
“He said we were there when he needed us, and now that his business was successful he wanted to give back,” says clinical director Sherry Beavers, who has worked as a registered nurse for 41 years.
The nonprofit clinic provides free healthcare services to people in Stephens County who are uninsured or who fall below the federal poverty level – for an individual, that means earning less than $1,238 per month.
“Statistics show that one in five Georgians fall below that level,” Beavers says, “so once you divvy up your resources for rent and utilities and food, healthcare is often the first place where people cut their budget.” And it’s often chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes that can prevent a patient from re-entering the workforce.
The clinic, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, receives no state or federal funding, relying exclusively on donations and small grants. It has a paid staff of two and an army of about 90 volunteers, including physicians, dentists, ophthalmologists and pharmacists. They treat an average of 300 patients per year, from age 18 to 65, on a budget of $120,000. Last year, the organization administered $1.4 million in medications.
“People assume that the Affordable Care Act covers everyone, but for the [currently 19] states that didn’t opt in for the Medicaid expansion, nothing could be further from the truth,” Beavers says. “We try to step into that gap.”
The clinic also provides special shoes for diabetics, along with crutches, wheelchairs, walkers, potty chairs and canes. “We don’t just apply band-aids,” she says. “We save lives.”