The lump shows up at a routine mammogram. The thyroid has enlarged. There’s blood in the stool. The EKG reading is abnormal.
Every one of these indicators are symptoms of potentially life-threatening conditions or disease. These conditions are often identified through preventive screenings at the local health department, and additional tests are needed to diagnose and determine severity.
But for so many of the under-privileged and underinsured residents of Burke County, they have no way to cover the cost of further evaluation to learn their diagnosis and treatment options.
“There is potential for devastating health effects to follow due to lack of access and continuity of care,” Burke County Health Department Nurse Manager Gina Richardson somberly points out, noting many of these patients simply go untreated.
A significant population in our county, Richardson says, falls in the gap between eligibility for state and federal programs and having the ability to afford primary care services. Many of those that qualify for government health insurance programs don’t have the resources to cover the high deductibles.
This literal life and death gap is what led to the establishment of the Burke County Health Foundation, the first of its kind in the State of Georgia. The foundation will provide resources for established health department patients who need further evaluation for potentially life-threatening conditions but can’t afford these next steps. They must meet current federal poverty guidelines, be residents of Burke County and be established patients at the Burke County Health Department.
“The beauty of the health foundation is that it compliments health services we already provide,” Richardson says, noting the health department’s mission to provide preventive health care. “And it is one-hundred percent supported by caring members of our community, including those who are generously donating as well as partnering providers who have agreed to offer these services at reduced rates.”