New Clinic Opens in Sandpoint
Provides services for the uninsured
If you are one of the 41 million Americans who are uninsured, and if you live in Bonner County, then a new resource for help is here. Bonner Partners In Care Clinic, Inc. (BPICC) opened its doors Tuesday evening, July 22, 2003. This is a not-for -profit clinic dedicated to providing health care to uninsured, low-income people in Bonner County. Clinic hours are from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm each Tuesday evening at 1020 Michigan Avenue in Sandpoint (Sandpoint Panhandle Health District Office) on a first-come, first-serve basis. Call 208-263-5159 for more information.
The focus of care is for primary health issues including high blood pressure, diabetes, other chronic health issues and acute medical conditions such as upper respiratory infections. The clinic will work in conjunction with the county to help clients access prescription assistance programs to ensure they can take the needed medications. The clinic does not have the capability to treat cuts or broken bones, surgical procedures, provide vision or dental care, narcotic pain medications, routine physical exams or mental health care except for depression. They will not provide care that is already available in the community such as family planning (including routine pap smears), testing for sexually transmitted diseases, immunizations and mental health care. Clients will be screened for financial eligibility and pay for services accordingly.
The clinic is modeled after the Dirne Clinic in Coeur d'Alene, which has been in operation since 1989. Dirne started by providing services one night a week and has expanded to two evenings a week, one morning clinic and mental health services during both of the evening clinics and also two other half-days a week. The primary staffing of Dirne is volunteers. As with Dirne, BPICC will have a paid clinic coordinator position and the remaining staff will be volunteers from the community. Dirne has been the only clinic of its kind in North Idaho and has been serving clients from Boundary, Bonner, Shoshone and Benewah counties as well as Kootenai County. Bonner County has been providing financial support to Dirne for the care that it has been providing to Bonner County residents.
Bonner County has an uninsured rate of 28%. Many of the uninsured people in the U.S. and in Idaho are working. When people do not have health insurance, for whatever reason, they tend to put off medical issues until they can no longer ignore them. By this time, the cost of care for treatment is far greater than if they had attended to the early symptoms and/or taken the prescribed medications. An emergency room visit or hospitalization can create major financial distress. Most people don't make these choices out of ignorance, but if the choice is medications or food for the family, the family is the priority. If the person cannot pay for the services, then the hospital absorbs the cost or they are referred to the county medical assistance office.
The Bonner County Assistance program has almost doubled its caseload to date this year. Last year at this time they had 110 cases and this year they have 190 people who have applied to the county for financial assistance to pay medical bills. There is a two-tiered system for payment. If the bill is over $10,000 and the county qualifies the client, then the bill is sent for review and qualification to the State Catastrophic Board for approval and they pay the rest.
The Bonner County budget for medical costs is $222,455. From July 2002 to June 30, 2003 $402,000 in benefits have been paid in the name of Bonner County residents.
Seeing the need for a clinic in Bonner County to help provide more accessible services for its citizens and better utilize the tax dollars in this county, a dedicated group of individuals have been working to see this clinic become operational. The group, with seed money from a CAP Grant ($25,000), has been meeting for over a year, working closely with the staff of the Dirne Clinic to open the doors. Glenda Michaud of North Idaho Partners in Care, has been the coordinator of the effort and has been working with people in partnership including Sheryl Rickard, CFO, Bonner General Hospital, Sheila Farmin-Aumick, Early Head Start, Brenda Hammond, Community Action Agency, Lora Cartelli, Bonner County Assistance, Debbie Koski, Job Service, Judith Ferrante, Health and Welfare and others.
Health care, or the lack of, is an issue that impacts the community on a physical, emotional and financial level. Let someone who needs help know about the clinic. You can do your part by volunteering. Funding for the clinic will be by private donations and public or private grants. So if you can't donate your talents, feel free to donate your treasure. Do your part to help improve the health of your community.
Linda Michal is a Certified Nurse Practitioner and part of The River Journal family.