Sixty-Nine Free Clinics Open Doors for First-Ever Statewide Open House

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The doors to 69 free clinics are staying open late tonight from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in an unprecedented effort to raise awareness of the critical health care needs being met for the uninsured by North Carolina’s free clinics. The statewide event coincides with national Cover the Uninsured Week.
 
North Carolina has the nation’s largest association of free clinics and is leading this statewide initiative to educate communities about the importance of providing high quality health care to the uninsured and other vulnerable populations. North Carolina is currently home to 1.3 million uninsured.
 
“Each year, we provide a critical safety net for tens of thousands of North Carolinians,” said Mike Darrow, executive director of the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics (NCAFC). “Without free clinics, basic health care needs would be out of reach for individuals who cannot afford to pay, resulting in people going without the necessary preventive and medical care they deserve. Not to mention, without free clinics, the cost to consumers would be even higher and the burden on the emergency rooms and hospitals would be even greater.”
 
In 2005 alone, North Carolina’s free clinics delivered more than $66 million worth of free health care services through more than 312,000 patient visits. This was due to the efforts of 6,400 volunteer health care professionals and community volunteers donating more than 92,000 hours of service.
 
"Free clinics play a critical role in North Carolina by giving the uninsured access to quality medical care they would not be able to pay for otherwise,” said North Carolina Lieutenant Governor, Beverly Perdue, who also chairs the Health and Wellness Trust Fund Commission. “Until everybody in North Carolina is insured, free clinics will be vitally important to our state." 
 
Free clinics provide medical and dental care, as well as prescription medications for low-income, uninsured people in more than 72 counties across the state. Emergency dental care is offered in more than 20 clinics and 10 clinics operate as pharmacy only, providing medication assistance to their communities.
 
Typically, free clinics receive no direct federal or state funding. Clinics are private, nonprofit, community-based organizations that provide health care access to North Carolinians through the use of volunteers and partnerships with other health providers. Eligibility for services is determined by each individual clinic.
 
A large number of patients who attend free clinics do so for the management of chronic illnesses. Free clinics offer basic diabetes and cardiovascular disease management services, including foot exams, glucose and blood pressure monitoring. In 2005, there was also an increase in the percentage of clinics offering weight reduction programs and eye exams. These programs and services are designed to help people live healthier lives.
 
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation (BCBSNC Foundation) is partnering with NCAFC on the Statewide Open House, as part of their five year, $10 million collaboration to help build the capacity and expand the service of the state’s free clinics. The goal is to expand the number of free clinics and pharmacies across the state to 85, increasing statewide access.
 
“It takes an entire community to support the work of these free clinics,” said Kathy Higgins, president of the BCBSNC Foundation. “Our partnership with the association continues to be a rewarding investment in the health of North Carolinians. The work they are doing is saving lives, and they are having an immediate and positive impact in our state.”
 
April 23-29, 2007 is national Cover the Uninsured Week, an annual campaign of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation urging the nation’s leaders to find a solution for the more than 44 million Americans, including almost 16 percent of North Carolinians, living without health insurance.
 
Each of the Association’s 69 clinics is hosting individual events. To find a clinic location near you or to learn more about what individual clinics are doing for their open houses, visit ncfreeclinics.org or call (336) 251-1111.
 
 
About North Carolina Association of Free Clinics:
The North Carolina Association of Free Clinics, founded in 1998, is a private, nonprofit, 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts advocacy, research, public relations, resource development, training and technical assistance on behalf of its member free clinics and the people they serve. Headquartered in Winston-Salem, the Association received its largest grant to date for $10 million from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, in order to expand and strengthen the free health clinic network across the state. To learn more about the work of the Association, visit ncfreeclinics.org or call (336) 251-1111.
 
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation:
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation (BCBSNC Foundation) is a separate, independent, private, charitable foundation with the mission of improving the health and well-being of North Carolinians. Its focus is on improving the health of vulnerable populations, supporting physical activity and nutrition programs, and helping nonprofit groups improve their organizational capacity. The BCBSNC Foundation funds programs and services in response to grant requests and proactively creates initiatives or partners with organizations to address specific needs. It also coordinates several signature programs, among them, the Breast Health Project and Healthy Community Institute for Nonprofit Excellence. Since its inception, the Foundation has awarded 200 grants totaling more than $30 million to organizations throughout North Carolina. More information is available at bcbsnc.com/foundation.
 
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
® Registered Marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
 
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