I was the first person in the office this morning, after a 7:40 am interview on WINA. When the main office phone rang before our opening time of 8:30, I answered it. On the line was a woman who said that the Charlottesville Free Clinic had told her that the United Way should be able to help her family.
It turns out that her teenage daughter needs to have some dental work done, including having her wisdom teeth removed. My teenage son just had his wisdom teeth removed by an oral surgeon, and we had to pay $300 out of pocket even with a good dental insurance plan. This family has no dental insurance – no health insurance as a matter of fact, because the father is self employed and they make less than $30,000 a year.
The reason she was told to call us is because of our Insurance for Children Project. Melissa Behl, our outreach worker, seeks out and signs up families for Virginia’s FAMIS program, which offers doctor visits, well-child checkups, shots, prescription drugs, dental and vision care, eyeglasses, hospital stays, ER care, mental health care, tests and X-rays with low or no co-pays.
I told the caller that Melissa was not in yet, but that I would have her call as soon as she got in. This afternoon, I asked Melissa if she had spoken to the woman. Not only had she talked with her, she had done the paperwork and submitted it to the state. Based on the information she has, she thinks the family will have no problem qualifying for FAMIS. The family should hear within a couple of weeks that they can get the daughter the dental care she needs. In addition, her sibling will be covered as well.
This is a family that is proud and trying to be self-sufficient, and would never think about accessing government social services. But because the United Way - a local nonprofit - offers a program and makes signing up as easy and comfortable as possible, these two children will have access to health care and the family will have a huge financial burden and stress lifted from them in the most dignified way possible. I hope they will take their children for complete physicals, get them current on their immunizations if necessary, get their teeth cleaned, fill those cavities, get their vision checked and eyeglasses if required, and will never need a hospital, but will have peace of mind if they do.
Sometimes when we answer the phone here, it is heartbreaking because there is no easy fix for some problems. Today, we were able to help a family within a few hours, in a way that is personal, substantial and has a long-term impact. Wow.
That is one more reason why I feel so fortunate to work here.
Submitted by Kim Connolly
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