My wife and I like to vacation in remote places. A few months ago we were staying at a location with few conveniences and services available, and I woke up with a terrible tooth ache. Since then we have added proximity to a dentist and pharmacy to our criteria for selecting a vacation destination. I ended up using an emergency room to find relief from my tooth pain. As I was waiting to be examined, I realized I was having the same expensive and unpleasant experience many people in Gwinnett County have endured for years. I was inappropriately using a hospital to take care of a tooth I had been told to attend to, but didn’t. My excuse was a poor one – inconvenience – but many people have sat in the same seat because they did not have dental insurance and were unable to self-pay for dental procedures. After all, a root canal and crown for a molar can cost more than $2,500.
The American Dental Association reports tooth pain is the third most common reason a person will arrive to an emergency room seeking something other than emergency medical services.
My tooth pain experience convinced me the Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett was indeed responding to a significant need when we added charity dental care to our list of services. Our new location opened in Norcross last summer and includes a six chair dental practice. Very quickly, we had nearly 800 people on a waiting list for a dental appointment. Since then, with the help of volunteers and a small staff of employees, we have provided more than 500 low cost dental appointments to uninsured and poor members of our community. Those appointments were for children and adults needing cleanings, fillings, extractions, root canals, and various oral surgeries. Our fees are typically 20% of common prices for the same service, and our range of services is broad thanks to the many skills and years of experience our volunteer dental professionals bring to the clinic.
Yet, we still have uninsured poor people in need of dental care on a waiting list and more are added every day. Our capacity for addressing the dental care needs of the poor living in our community is directly related to the availability of volunteer dental professionals. While we have enjoyed the volunteer services of dozens of dental professionals, dozens more are needed to adequately address the needs in a timely fashion. We encourage dental assistants, dental hygienists, dentists, and oral surgeons to offer our patients a bit of time. We are able to keep our fees as affordable as they are only when volunteers deliver the majority of the dental services needed.
Looking at my own ER bill, I believe for every bad tooth treated at Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett rather than the emergency room, we will save the community hospital more than $1,000 in uncompensated care. That’s good for the patient, the hospital, and the insured individual who pays more to help offset that deficit. It makes good sense to volunteer in our dental clinic. To sign up, contact me at email@example.com.
Hearing talk of the Presidential Election results everywhere I turn these days, I am prompted to write about our First Hundred Days. The First Hundred Days is a reference to the first 100 days of office of a new president of the United States. It is a measure of the early accomplishments and future success of the president just after moving into the Oval Office.
We began providing charitable healthcare services to the community at our new location on July 25. Our priorities were to expand our facility and operations so we could serve more people, launch a dispensary so our patients might have convenient access to low-cost medications, to improve our sustainability through investing in a donor development initiative, and launch a full-time dental practice so we could fill a void within the charitable services available in our community.
One hundred-eight days after our opening (okay, I’m a little late), I am pleased to report to you the following successes and accomplishments against our priorities:
We are indeed serving more people. We had only one month during 2015 when we served more than 1600 people. Since our relocation, we have provided services to more than 1600 people for three consecutive months, and we are on track to serve nearly 18,000 people by end of the year. Just this week we recorded our busiest day ever –140 people. We have nearly tripled the number of patients we serve under the age of eighteen, and are witnessing a 25% increase in the number of elderly patients we serve. We are grateful to our donors who made it possible for us to report success on this priority.
We now operate a Physician Dispensary, making available to our patients convenient access to free and low-cost medications. Research shows patients are much more likely to take prescribed medications if they leave their doctor’s office with the medications in hand. We are very optimistic this new service will help our patients achieve better health outcomes. We thank our donors for making it possible to report success on this priority.
Please let me introduce you to Nathaly Echeverri, who joined us a month ago as Development Associate. A graduate of Georgia State University, Andrew Young College of Public Policy, with a concentration in Nonprofit Leadership, Nathaly is tasked with befriending our donors, extending our relationships within the business community, and identifying new sources of grant funding. She is off to an impressive start, and I personally thank our donors who invested in our human capital so that we could bring this talented young professional onto our team and satisfy this priority.
We have launched our dental practice and provided dental services to 100 patients during October, two times more than we served in September. The fact the dental practice is operating and seeing an increasing number of patients sounds like a success, but we are not satisfied. We are not yet seeing as many patients as we should, for we have not secured enough volunteer dentists to meet our goal of operating five days a week. More than 700 people have asked for a dental appointment. We have the facility and desire to address that enormous need, but need more volunteer dentists to help us get the work done. Having the dental practice operate at its capacity is our highest priority in 2017. We are very thankful to our donors who helped fund the construction and equipping of the practice, we are very thankful to those dentists who have stepped forward to help us, and we ask you to join us in the effort to recruit more dentists to help us care for the oral health needs of the poor in our community. We will not let go of this goal.
I hope you are pleased with what we have accomplished during our first 108 days, and I hope you will encourage us with the offer of financial support before the end of the year. The significant year over year growth of our ministry since 2011 comes at an ever increasing cost, and we depend on your donations to keep our appointment fees at a price point our uninsured patients can afford. Our 2017 Budget is $1.7 Million and patients will pay half that cost. We need your help to fill the $850,000 gap so that we might accomplish the following:
Provide 14,000 medical appointments
Provide 6,000 dental appointments
Provide 4,000 social services appointments
Provide 500 volunteers with service learning opportunities
Mentor and train 200 students of the healthcare profession
Please, make a gift to this organization today. As always, our prayer for you is…
May you be blessed in abundance so that you might bless with abandon!
The Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett opened the doors of its new facility at 7:30AM, Monday, July 25th. That day marked the end of a four year journey that involved countless newsletters, countless emails, countless phone calls, thousands of handshakes, hundreds of coffee conversations, hundreds of tours and presentations, hundreds of hundreds of proposals, and finally, dozens of dozens of generous donors coming to the table with a financial gift.
The journey was not without its challenges. Twice we found reason to revise our plans and reset our goals. Twice I had to encourage my staff and reassure them that in spite of a downsized vision, we were going to have a new clinic one day. Twice (many more than that, to be honest) I had to convince myself we were really going to pull off on a meaningful scale what we had set out to do – provide more charitable healthcare to the poor and uninsured and launch a charitable dental practice within our clinic. I recall a newsletter I penned about a year ago in which I compared myself to Sisyphus, weary and struggling to roll a boulder up a steep hill. The newsletter was optimistic but for the author, it was truly a low point. We had six months remaining in our campaign and were more than $2 million short of our goal. I was bracing for defeat, expecting to lose my footing and to be rolled over by the boulder.
When our doors opened that Monday almost six weeks ago, I greeted our first patient, a woman. We had our picture taken and then I turned my attention to greeting other patients and guests who had come to celebrate with us. It wasn’t until a few days later when I began to review photographs of the opening ceremony that I noticed the woman’s shirt. It bore the phrase, Don’t Ever Quit. I read that phrase as though it were a personal message delivered to me. Don’t Ever Quit. Don’t. Ever. Quit. My eyes fixed on those three simple words and quickly I knew exactly who was speaking to me and what was being.
Don’t ever quit. Don’t ever give up. Don’t doubt my ways. I have a plan for you and I will see it through. I will finish what I start. I am with you in this. Just trust me and in time, you will see.
The photograph of this woman and me is no longer about an opening day ceremony. Instead, it is a reminder that our God does indeed work out all things for good to those who love him. We only have to be patient and trust in his timing. Oh how many of us have suffered and shorted ourselves for our impatience and quitting! What am I saying here? Yes, we finally opened our new clinic. Yes, it includes a dental practice. Yes, we are serving more than one-hundred people some days. But the founding principle of this clinic was not to serve as many patients as possible. Rather, the founding principle of this clinic was to give glory to God through our caring for the sick and poor.
What I am saying here is this: Thanks be to God, for he never quits on us. He never gives up on us. He never stops loving us. He never stops perfecting us. He never stops drawing us near to him. Thanks be to God! Thanks be to God for our freedom to shout out his name! Thanks be to God for using you, our staff and volunteers, and me in a manner that touches so many lives in our community. Thanks be to God for bringing us together around this ministry! Thanks be to God! Don’t ever quit giving thanks to God, for he is good to each and every one of us! AMEN
Please mark your calendar to attend our annual event, Hearts and Hands United, this October 20th at Flint Hill in Norcross. Dr. Manny Alvarez, Fox News Channel Senior Managing Health Editor, will entertain you with his story of coming to America as a foster child, his journey to become a physician, and the experience that led him to care for the poor.
Four years ago, this organization began to dream of a new home. We dreamed of a home large enough to accommodate all the patients who we believed would come to us for care. We dreamed of a home large enough to permit expansion our services to fill the gaps we witnessed in charitable healthcare in our community. We dreamed of a home large enough to accommodate the students who wanted us to help train them to care for the poor and underserved.
A few people told us we were dreaming too big; that our vision was too grand. In those moments we remembered a verse that promises what God starts, he finishes. Where God guides, he provides. And where God leads, he meets our needs. (Philippians 1:6)
In only three weeks, we will open to the community the doors of our new home. Behind those doors is three times more floor space than what we have today. Behind those doors is a six chair dental clinic waiting to serve the uninsured. Behind those doors are more medical exam rooms, counseling rooms, volunteer facilities, and new equipment. There we are equipped to serve more of the poor and uninsured and train more rising healthcare professionals eager to help break the access barrier.
God indeed finishes what he starts, and soon he will finish our long journey to our new home. And we have no doubt that when that journey ends, God will start something else in this ministry. He will use us to grow his kingdom, and in doing so he will work us harder than ever before. We are confident of this because we already have 184 people on a waiting list to receive charitable dental care, and our student calendar is booked with four graduate students a day through May 2017.
And we are not afraid, because we are also confident that where God guides, he provides. He will provide for this ministry just as he has until this time. Thanks to God, and thanks to you, his faithful, we go into our new home debt free. We dared to dream a dream so big it was doomed for failure lest God be in it. God is in it, AMEN. Come and see.
We’ve all heard someone, perhaps even ourselves, say, “That is outside of my comfort zone.” This phrase usually describes where calm ends and anxiety begins, where confidence runs dry and fear sets in. It also literally describes where comfort switches to discomfort or worse, pain. Here at the Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett, we’ve all had to tweak our comfort zones, to adjust ourselves and expectations to circumstances that have been a little more challenging and a little less pleasant than what we would have liked.
During the last four years, we’ve learned how to park forty cars in twenty-seven spaces, eat lunch standing up, pray out loud and carry on heartfelt conversations in wide open spaces, and seat six in an office furnished for two. These were the easy tweaks to our comfort zones.
We’ve also learned how to be comfortable stretching the boundaries of primary care. Here we provide healthcare to those with brittle diabetes, advanced cardiovascular diseases, infectious diseases, gynecological and neurological problems, cancers, and more. It is not uncommon for new students and medical volunteers to gasp and ask why we aren’t referring such sick people to specialists. Attending to cases like these will challenge almost anyone’s comfort zone. And then we explain – we are a safety-net clinic; we exist to serve those who have no other option. The poor and uninsured cannot afford for us to make decisions based on our preference to avoid risk and stay within our comfort zone. The poor and uninsured have turned to us because they have nowhere else to go. We must attend to them, doing the best and most we can, within rather limited means.
We attend to them because we are called to be their comfort zone, their safe place to turn, no matter if the task at hand gives us the jitters.
When we are stressed by extraordinary situations, I think of someone who bravely went well beyond his comfort zone. I think of Jesus. I think of how heavy the cross must have weighed on his shoulders, how the thorns, whip, and nails must have felt when piercing his skin, and how alone he surely was when his companions turned away from him. Yet he willingly endured it all. He endured it all for our patients, for me, and for you.
With Jesus as our example, we continue to tempt anxiety, fear, and discomfort as we test and redefine our comfort zones to better serve the continuously increasing demands on our ministry. Soon, when we move into our new home, the problems of inadequate parking and work space will be resolved. But the pressing needs of the uninsured will remain. By some estimates, more than 20 million people are still without health insurance, and even more do not have dental insurance. We believe we are adequately provisioned to care for the poor of our community for the near future, but we cannot operate indefinitely with the reserves we have on hand. This is why I ask you, even though we have had a successful campaign to buy, renovate, and furnish a larger facility, to continue to give generously to our ministry, perhaps give beyond your comfort zone, so that we may continue for years to come to be the most robust safety-net clinic of our community.
Jesus said, and proved, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Few of us will be faced with giving our life to save another, but all of us can come closer to that ultimate sacrifice by laying down our comforts and indulgences in order to give to help the poor. Please offer us a gift today so that we may continue to respond to the medical, dental, and emotional needs of the uninsured in north metro Atlanta. We thank you for your support and prayers so far, and we thank you in advance for how you may support us in the future.
Taking account of our activities during 2015, we acknowledge and praise God for watching over and blessing the Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett. I am amazed as I come to the realization of just how God has used this ministry to grow His kingdom. During 2015, as in the three preceding years; we exceeded our goals and realized remarkable accomplishments. We proclaim that God does all the work, and we give all credit and glory to Him for sprinkling our ministry with favor and using us to carry out His plans. All of us – staff, students, and volunteers – are honored to have a role in delivering healthcare to the uninsured and sharing the hope of the Gospel with those who entrust their lives to us. We pray that we be able to continue in the pursuits of this ministry for years to come, to heal the sick and use that encounter to introduce our clients into a lifesaving relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Our most important pursuit for 2016, indeed as long as we exist, is to remain faithful to our Christ-centered identity and mission.
We want to request for your help to expand the Good Samaritan legacy. Our ministry activities have increased year over year since 2011; we served nearly six times more people last year than four years ago. We reached the physical limits of our office and saw no choice but to relocate if we were to adequately respond to an ever increasing demand for services. Two years ago, we launched a capital campaign and have since raised $4.7M in cash and pledges to fund an acquisition and renovation, acquire equipment, and establish new services. This summer, we will relocate to our new home in Norcross, GA, where we will provide charitable healthcare, dental, and other services for one-hundred people each day.
We knew our decision to take on more work would come at a price. Like our workload, our budget has increased dramatically and now exceeds $1.3M annually. While our patients do pay fees, those fees are below cost and cover only half our operating expenses. I ask you now to remain or become a matching donor, to meet our patients halfway as they help pay for the services they receive, and to join the ranks of our friends and board members who together with you would provide enough charitable contributions to fund the remaining half of our operating expenses. As likeminded partners, patients, donors, staff, and volunteers can dramatically improve the health status of our community, and do so in the name of Jesus Christ.
We thank you for your support, labors and prayers, and we pray that you be blessed in abundance so that you might bless with abandon.
It’s quite normal for there to be “extra” people in an exam room during an appointment. It would not be uncommon for you to find in one of our 8 by 10 foot exam rooms a provider, a student, a translator, the patient, and probably one or two family members – not to mention an exam table. To say the least, it’s not the setting that you and I would likely encounter at our annual physical.
But even dealing with this reality on a daily basis, there are still events that catch us a bit off guard. I want to share one such recent story with you.
Isabel, a patient with diabetes, made an appointment with us and when she arrived a friend, and fellow patient of Good Samaritan – Maria, was with her. Isabel had told Maria that her diabetes was out of control, and that she needed Maria’s support during her doctors visit.
The two entered an exam room, joined by a translator and provider. Isabel, speaking English because she knows Maria only speaks Spanish, explained to the provider and translator that the reason for her making an appointment was not, in fact, due to her diabetes – nor had she invited Maria along for emotional or physical support.
Quite the opposite was true…
Knowing that her friend would not understand, Isabel explained to her provider and translator that Maria’s son had recently been killed in Mexico. Isabel had been given the information in English, and tasked with telling her friend about the painful loss. But how do you tell a friend that her son has tragically died?
Confused about how to share this painful news with Maria, Isabel turned to Good Samaritan – a place where both she and Maria had received treatment for physical ailments. Today, the care administered would be emotional and spiritual rather than physical. Having shared the circumstances for the visit with the provider and translator, the four women prayed together and then shared with Maria the news of her son’s passing — the true reason for the visit to Good Samaritan. That it was Isabel who was truly playing the role of the supportive and loving friend on that afternoon.
In sharing this story with me, our translator said “All the Glory is to God…the community looks at us as a place of comfort and shelter in the midst of their most difficult situations.”
You may have heard me mention before that the most common miracle Jesus performs in scripture is that of physical healing. But if you look at His miracles – even those not including physical healing – you’ll see a distinct trend. Jesus meets immediate needs in the lives of those he encounters. Be it hunger, health, eye sight, or even the grief of one having lost a child like Jairus in Matthew 9, Jesus addressed the pressing needs of those to whom He ministered.
The Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett is a healthcare facility, but we are not just in the healthcare business, we are in the truth-speaking business. Each patient who walks through our doors may arrive with a need to be met — often physical healing. But, each one leaves having had the truth of Christ shared with them. As with Isabel and Maria, the healthcare may get folks through the door but it’s the ministry and truth of Jesus that truly changes lives.
This is the call that we have received: “to heal the sick who are there and tell them the kingdom of God has come near.” (Luke 10:9), and we fulfill that call one patient at a time.
In the summer of 2013, we announced plans to move and expand our ministry. We’ve been working tirelessly since then to raise the funds needed to buy a larger building and add to our service offerings a nonprofit dental practice. Today, I am very pleased to inform you we have secured a new home for the Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett. On Friday, October 23rd, we acquired a 13,000 s.f. property at 5949 Buford Hwy., Norcross.
Founded in 2005, this Christian health center has served the poor and uninsured in its original 4,300 s.f. facility on Club Drive in Lawrenceville. On a busy day, we will see 125 customers pass through the clinic. Our parking lot holds only twenty-seven cars, so you can imagine how crowded the office and lot can become. Last year, we provided 11,989 patient appointments, and we expect to serve 17,000 customer visits this year. We saw we had no choice but to move and grow if we were to adequately serve the community as our founders intended. The center was started a decade ago by a small group of volunteers, and today is supported by fourteen employees and nearly 500 volunteers.
Our holistic approach to healthcare has been limited to medicine and counseling because of our space restrictions, but next year we overcome that problem. We will move our operation to the new location in the spring of 2016, after its interior renovation is completed. At that time, we will offer the uninsured of the north metro Atlanta area access to low-cost medical, dental, pharmacy, and counseling services. In addition, we will continue our secondary mission of training future medical professionals in the conservative approach to providing healthcare for the poor. We have provided clinical rotations for more than 150 pharmacy, physician assistant, and nurse practitioner students during the recent four years.
Although we have reached this important milestone, our campaign is not yet finished. We will spend nearly $1 million on renovation and equipment before we can use the new building, and we will open the doors with more operating overhead than ever before. Your generous support of our work is just as critical as at any time in the past, perhaps even more so. We have raised $3.6 of our $7 million five year budget, and we forge ahead in faith the remaining dollars needed to fund all planned programs will be provided. We ask you to step out in faith with us; please make a donation today to help bring us closer to our goal. Partner with us to DOUBLE our impact during the next five years.
Citing a decline in demand as patients obtained insurance through the Affordable Care Act, the Gwinnett Community Clinic announced recently it will be shutting its doors after more than twenty-five years of providing access to medical care for a portion of Gwinnett County’s poor, uninsured residents.
Eleven miles away at the Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett – another charitable medical clinic – we experience a very different reality. Our nonprofit has seen staggering growth during the past four years – from just more than 3,000 visits in 2011 to nearly 12,000 in 2014. So far this year, we’ve seen 10,600 people pass through our doors. We are on track to report by year end a 500% increase in patient demand since 2011. If the ACA has solved the access to healthcare problem, how can our experience be explained?
Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett, a Christian ministry, is open 52 hours-per-week and serves individuals of all ages no matter where they live. Walk-ins and patients with appointments are served without a referral, proof of residency, or income caps. The only eligibility requirement is simple – the individual must be uninsured. The average household profile of our customers is 4.2 occupants barely getting by on $18,446 a year.
Interestingly, we’ve had many requests for services from people who have obtained insurance through the ACA but found they could not afford the copayments and deductibles sometimes reaching as much as $6,000. Why have insurance, they ask us. We try to help these people too, understanding no one can easily spend one-third their gross income on medical bills.
Our limited eligibility criteria avails our services to families living in the so called Coverage Gap and who for various reasons are unable to receive services elsewhere. Many charitable clinics throughout Georgia, the Gwinnett Community Clinic included, operate by appointment only during limited hours, often as few as ten hours a week. We serve so many because we are open so often, and we make it as easy as possible to get in the door.
Our business model assumes donors will help us accomplish our missional goals. On average, we spend just under $91 to provide an appointment and patient fees cover about half that cost. We’ve witnessed donations decrease in recent years, perhaps because the common narrative suggests our type organization is no longer necessary. If you think that for a moment, we encourage you to visit us. You can come in to see the need for yourself, if you can find a parking space.
Our community must recognize the need for charitable healthcare services is not diminishing; it is constant if not increasing. In fact, there also continues to be a lack of low-cost dental care, pharmacy, and mental health offerings in Gwinnett County. We plan to relocate our clinic next year to a larger building so that we can increase our efforts to meet these needs. Even in the face of diminishing donations, we forge ahead. We must. Gwinnett has lost two charitable clinics; only two remain. For some, our growth plans make no business sense. To do nothing, in our opinion, makes no Christian sense.