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Editorial: Good News Clinics is a health care solution to celebrate
Gainesville nonprofit staffed by volunteer medical pros has been serving patients in need for 25 years
Good News Clinics
Dr. Johnny Martin and Roxana Jimenez tend to a Good News Clinic patient in the dentist offices of the Gainesville health clinic. - photo by Scott Rogers

In a time when providing decent, affordable health care for everyone in need is a debate that rings through the land, Gainesville has at least one small solution to this ongoing problem.

That concept that came to fruition 25 years ago marked its anniversary last week at a fundraising banquet designed to keep a good idea going by supporting its mission.

Good News Clinics began in 1992 with a small group of doctors and clergy serving indigent patients in two rooms in the Good News at Noon homeless shelter in Gainesville. Now separate from the shelter, the clinics serve up to 4,000 people each year with an annual budget of $1.4 million that provides some $21.8 million worth of health services offered by volunteer doctors and health specialists.

The clinics have expanded over the years from those two rooms to a site at 810 Pine St. that includes a pharmacy, dental clinic and physical therapy treatments by Brenau University students. The most recent expansion in 2013 added 2,000 additional square feet. Its merger with Health Access Initiative five years ago made it the largest no-cost clinic in Georgia.

The services aren’t necessarily for everyone. It’s a Christian-based nonprofit that serves only Hall County residents with monthly incomes of no more than $3,075 for a family of four and $1,508 for a single person. But the common element is the care and kindness shown those who visit.

“We treat everybody with respect and dignity,” executive director Allison Borchert said. “People who come through our doors may be out of prison or have had hard knocks in life. Just to be treated with respect and dignity and have someone listen to them and care about their story is huge.”

The clinics raised nearly $70,000 toward its goal of $100,000 at the awards banquet. It’s money well spent when you consider the alternative.

One motivation for creating more health care options, along with an insurance safety net for low-income residents, is how cost-effective such moves are in the long term. People who don’t receive treatments for minor issues or well-patient visits usually wind up in hospital emergency rooms when their conditions worsen. That not only leads to unnecessary pain and suffering but huge expenses hospitals must write off, raising health costs for everyone.

Those who visit the Good News Clinics include workers at local jobs making hotel beds, waiting tables, serving food and offering home services. Their kids go to school alongside all other residents’ children. Those who can get long-delayed dental work done or fill prescriptions they couldn’t afford otherwise are going to be more productive residents paying taxes in the community. Keeping them healthy and well is in everyone’s best interests, both for humane and practical reasons.

The student-run physical therapy clinic serves two purposes: Helping patients while serving as a training ground for undergraduates. They learn not only better treatment procedures but how to create personal relationships with patients.

All these reasons show why initiatives like the clinics are worth well more than their face value. By filling a crucial need at a time when health care is both expensive and sometimes hard to find, it reveals the heart of a community that so often has its priorities straight.

Elected leaders will continue to debate in Washington over the fate of the Affordable Care Act and how to make health insurance more available and affordable for all. State legislators will do the same in pondering the expansion or improved efficiency of Medicaid services and support failing rural hospitals.

Meanwhile, Hall County can celebrate 25 years of a solution that works and continues to make our local residents healthier and more productive by administering medicine, respect and peace of mind. It’s hard to put a price tag on that.

Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a a letter to the editor; email The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas, plus community members Susan DeCrescenzo, Cathy Drerup and Brent Hoffman. 

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