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Cindy Ficorelli

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Community Caring Award nominees, winners announced

(GENESEE COUNTY, MI) Cover the Uninsured Week (CTUW) festitivites wrapped up today - Friday, May 7 - with the Community Caring Awards breakfast where businesses, organizations and individuals were honored for their service on behalf of the underserved and uninsured in Genesee County.
Leslie Toldo, medical reporter and meteorologist for ABC12, served as emcee for the event, held at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Flint.

Businesses and organizations nominated for the Community Caring Award are:

This nationally recognized workforce initiative focuses on individual and community empowerment through employment. The vision of STRIVE is to open doors, change lives, and raise the hopes and wellbeing of those in need. This organization has partnered with community agencies that provide health services and resources to ensure the needs of the uninsured and underinsured are met.

Ebenezer Ministries
Under the leadership of Pastor Urundi Knox, Ebenezer Ministries established a fund to ensure seniors in the church will receive their prescribed medications when they are needed. Many seniors on a fix income live without their medications or ration them. The ministry assures these people will have the medication they need.

American Red Cross
For many years, the American Red Cross – Genesee/Lapeer chapter has recognized the plight of the uninsured and underinsured by providing assistance with dental services and purchasing medications to help the needy in this community. With funding resources so limited and the need for services continuing to increase, the Red Cross successfully secured funding so residents still have an avenue to get the help they need. The Red Cross receives requests for assistance from more than 200 people each month and has been able to help most of these individuals with dental services and medication.

Genesys Home and Hospice Care’s Respiratory Care division
and McLarenVisiting Nurse and Hospice
These two organizations donate nebulizers and C-PAP machines to low-income, uninsured Genesee County residents. Many uninsured residents cannot afford this medical equipment, and these machines are not covered under Genesee Health Plan.

Liberty Christian Outreach Ministries in Flint
During the past year, this ministry has taken care of eight to 10 families in desperate need of assistance. On the fourth Sunday of each month, members of the ministry bring boxes of food – in truckloads – to help needy families.

Complete Eye Care
Dr. John Waters founded Complete Eye Care to dramatically improve the patient-physician relationship and create a more personalized form of health care. He has devoted his career to patient advocacy in the insurance maze. Dr. Waters and his team educated patients, not only about their health, but about their health care choices. He has been very generous in working with the underserved and uninsured by donating vision exams and glasses to patients for over five years. He also helps his own patients who have faced financial hardships and patients from the Genesee County Free Medical Clinic.

Greater Flint Imaging
The Genesee County Health Department provides breast cancer screening services for Genesee County women, including the uninsured. The health department was faced with a dilemma – not enough women were taking advantage of this service, and there was the potential that federal funding might be reduced. Greater Flint Imaging stepped in to help.

When women come to the imaging center for a mammogram and have no insurance or limited insurance, the staff at the center make sure these women complete the necessary paperwork to be included in the health department’s free screening program. This helps in many ways: more women are receiving services they need, funding remains secured, and if a positive screen is detected the health department can get these women on Medicaid right away so treatment can be covered.

Genesee County Community Mental Health Services
Low income residents who did not have Medicaid or other health insurances, or did not meet the admission criteria for Genesee County Community Mental Health, would go without mental health treatment or pay out of pocket to a handful of providers who saw these people on a sliding scale fee.

In 2006, the leadership of Genesee Health Plan and Genesee County Community Mental Health came together to address this need. The result of this partnership was a three-year grant from Community Mental Health to Genesee Health Plan to provide a limited mental health program for the uninsured.

Those who need these services receive:
A mental health screening
Individual outpatient therapy and counseling sessions
Visits with a psychiatrist
Mental health medications

Over the last three years, Community Mental Health has provided over $1 million to fund this mental health program that has helped 2,418 Genesee County residents. The funding has covered:
11,023 outpatient counseling sessions
2,358 initial consultations with a psychiatrist
2,557 follow-up visits with a psychiatrist if medications were prescribed

The organization that received the Community Caring Award this year is East Michigan Eye Center in Flint.

East Michigan Eye Center has provided ophthalmology services to Genesee County residents and the surrounding communities for about 29 years. The organization has offered free eye screenings to the uninsured and underserved at the Cover the Uninsured Week Expo for the past three years, as well as follow-up eye exams for corrective eyewear. East Michigan Eye Center also has partnered with Eye Care of America to offer free eye care services to the uninsured.

Individuals nominated for the Community Caring Award are:

The Honorable Dale Kildee, congressman representing the fifth district of Michigan, was nominated for the instrumental role he played in ensuring the House of Representatives passed landmark legislation that will begin to extend health insurance coverage to over 30 million additional Americans. He was a driving force in the push for this bill that will benefit millions of people.

Patrick Wardell, president and CEO of Hurley Medical Center, continually asks Hurley leaders and Hurley personnel how the organization can do more for the community. The initiative doesn’t matter as much as the outcome of how Hurley can extend its services to help the community. He was instrumental in developing Hurley Health Status Improvement Initiatives to help the community inside as well as outside the Hurley walls.

Dr. Mark Plucer serves as a volunteer for the Genesee County Free Medical Clinic.When physicians are unable to fulfill their duties on their assigned night, they rely on Dr. Plucer. He not only is a member of the physician clinic team on Tuesday evenings, but he also is the one who steps in for other physicians – even on a moment’s notice. He has volunteered to be the on-call physician for the free medical clinic, and he will “drop everything” to make sure the clinic is staffed.

In addition to his staffing duties, Dr. Plucer also volunteers his time at the clinic to help the staff process, sort and store a small mountain of donated sample medications. Dr. Plucer stops by the clinic three to four times a month to help with this task … without anyone asking.

Ervin Leavy Jr has directed a youth basketball camp for the past six years in hopes of making a difference in the life of these kids. In addition, he has been instrumental in expanding the University of Michigan Flint’s intramural activities to encourage more physical activity and healthier lifestyles for students at the university. During the summer of 2009, Leavy offered partial scholarships for youth who did not have the financial resources to attend basketball camp.

Kathy Wilks, a registered nurse at Genesys, serves as case manager for the Choices and Palliative Care program at Genesys.

Not only did she work to set up this service for terminally ill patients so they could live in comfort and peace during their final days, but she also helps Genesys cancer patients with little or no insurance obtain needed medical equipment, transportation to and from doctor appointments, medicine, and even money to help them pay bills. Wilks also is a strong supporter of Reunion with a Cause, an annual fundraiser held every year in August to raise money for Genesys cancer patients. She works side by side with committee members to make sure the money raised from the event gets in the hands of those who need it most.

Gary Austin, another employee from Genesys, was nominated for his work with Dispensary of Hope, a not-for-profit network of dispensing sites that work to make sure people without prescriptions can obtain the medications they need quickly. In addition to his day to day responsibilities as a pharmacist at Genesys who oversees the Genesys Employee Pharmacy, Austin singlehandedly has taken on the Dispensary of Hope project.

Genesys serves as the only dispensary site in Michigan, and Austin tirelessly has worked to make sure medications are available at the Genesys pharmacy quickly when patients have short-term as well as long-term medication needs. He is very passionate about this service, which fills a huge gap for patients who may not have any other means of obtaining their prescriptions.

He not only works individually with each patient who comes to the Genesys Pharmacy to make sure all of their questions are answered, but he also works closely with Genesee Health Plan case managers to make sure clients who qualify for Dispensary of Hope assistance receive the help they need quickly.

Dr. Ahmed Arif is the Director of the Muslim Outreach Free Clinic, and was instrumental in its opening last year. He has organized a network of doctors who spend one day a week providing no-charge services to people in need.

The Muslim Outreach Free Clinic, under Dr. Arif’s direction, provides these services:
Free doctor visits
Free lab tests and X-rays
Free prescriptions
Referrals to specialists if needed

The clinic staff see many people who do not meet the income requirements of the Genesee Health Plan, but have medical needs they cannot afford to pay for.

Dr. Sunil Kumar, chief resident of the Family Medicine Residency program at Genesys this year, not only is passionate about medicine, but also about painting. He combined his two passions to help make a difference in the lives of children in this community by donating the proceeds from the sale of 30 of his paintings at a recent exhibit at Whaley’s Children Center.

Jennifer Szumowicz, director of Pharmacy programs for HealthPlus of Michigan, works as a volunteer at the Genesee Free Clinic, assisting residents by filling their prescriptions and helping those without insurance connect to other community safety nets. Her observations and concern for an individual’s health are reflected in the way she offers alternatives and solutions to assist those who do not have health care coverage.

Dr. Richard Halliday was nominated for the Community Caring Award for his commitment to provide free dental services for the past two years to the uninsured and underinsured residents of our community. With the limited number of affordable dental plans and free dental services having long waiting lists, many people have untreated health problems. Dr. Halliday and his staff have stepped up to help meet this need.

Sachin Desai provides physical therapy services to members of the community and many members of Genesee Health Plan. He also donates his services to patients of the Genesee County Free Medical Clinic. In addition to complimentary physical therapy services, he provides exercise and other wellness programs at no or very minimal charge to the uninsured.

Mary Vizcarra is a HELP coordinator at the Center for Civil Justice, helping people who are facing a barrier or a problem with obtaining or keeping government health insurance like Medicare or Medicaid. She assists people in any way she can – from helping them connect with their Department of Human Services case worker, to finding out why someone lost a benefit, to helping an individual file a hearing notice in an attempt to regain benefits.

Frank Woods, program director of One Stop Housing Resource Center, has been a leader in finding unconventional ways of pooling resources to meet the needs of clients served at One Stop. He goes above and beyond on a regular basis to access basic needs of clients such as clothing, food and hygiene, and has been diligent in communicating the growing needs of this population to encourage the community to help in whatever way possible.

Dr. Frank Radtke was the first dentist to join Genesee Health Plan's pilot dental program in July 2009 to address the emergency dental needs of members. Genesee Health Plan staff found that emergency dental needs were the second biggest reason members sought emergency department care. Dr. Radtke volunteered countless hours to help structure the program and to help with determining what services were to be covered under this program with limited funding.

Winner of the Community Caring Award is Tom Knight, the Homeless Outreach coordinator for Resource Genesee, based inside the One Stop Housing Resource Center. Pastor Tom, as he is known in the community, spends countless hours finding homeless people in need of help - in places most people would not consider going - abandoned houses, garages, under crosswalks, in tents in wooded areas, in cars and inside crates. Many of these people need a variety of services including health care, housing, substance abuse counseling and much more. Pastor Tom goes out of his way and sometimes out of his pocket, to make sure these people are not falling through the gaps and cracks in the system. Pastor Tom also has handed out more than 200 sleeping bags, 250 personal needs' packages, 500 bus passes, bags of clothing, and food; and he has paid for motel stays, bought boots, shoes, hats, coats and gloves. The list continues to grow.

Cover the Uninsured Week - May 3 through May 7 - is designed to raise the awareness of the plight of the uninsured, and what Genesee County can do to help these individuals. The Community Caring Awards breakfast ends the week by recognizing dozens of people who have contributed their time and talents to help those in need.

Cover the Uninsured Week was presented by a committee comprised of representatives from ABC12, Advomas, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Center for Civil Justice, Genesse Health Plan, Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce, Genesys Health System, HealthPlus of Michigan, Hurley Medical Center, McLaren Regional Medical Center and The Flint Journal.


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