Good Samaritan Health Center of Cobb, off Austell Road south of Marietta, opened in April 2007 to provide quality health care to low-income families, who would otherwise go without care.
These are mostly working families who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford insurance in cases where it’s not offered by their employer.
Ashley Candler Garrison, director of development at Good Samaritan, said there has been an increase in demand from working families, who fall bet-ween the cracks for medical coverage.
Last year, according to the Good Samaritan 2012 annual report, the clinic provided $15 million in medical and dental care, with $4.7 million of that going to prescription medications and $5.5 million in labs and radiology services.
For these services patients pay on a sliding scale, based on family size and household income, Garrison said. On average the fee is $25, which amounts to $700 worth of care, she said.
Good Samaritan’s CEO and Medical Director, Larry Hornsby, said patients must put something into the system to get value out of services.
“When something is free, it is not valued as much,” Hornsby said.
Hornsby, who also serves as a family doctor at Good Samaritan, said he started the clinic almost seven years ago to help offset the number of Cobb residents who cannot see a primary care physicians and turn to local emergency rooms and urgent care centers.
Additionally, Hornsby said Cobb has very few low-cost dental choices or options for affordable medicine.
By opening the clinic, Good Samaritan patients have regular visits for comprehensive and preventative care, such as walk-in patients with ear infections or regular clients with chronic diseases.
Federal gov’t grants assistance
A month ago, the Christian-based Good Samaritan Health Center of Cobb received a federal grant of $812,500 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
These grants were part of a national effort that awarded close to $150 million to 236 health centers in 43 states, including 10 centers in Georgia, Garrison said.
The money will expand the clinic’s health care services and double the number of patients treated at the center, Garrison said. It will also provide 35 percent of the clinic’s budget for the next 15 months.
This expansion by Good Samaritan will include taking over a property across the street — an old QuikTrip at the corner of Austell Road.
Garrison said the nonprofit bought the building for $300,000 this summer with 100 percent of the money coming from donors.
“We raised enough money so we wouldn’t have debt,” said Garrison, who added that the nonprofit’s bylaws keep the health center from operating with a debt. “It keeps us sustainable through a good and bad economy.”
Physicians donate their time
The federal grant will not be used to renovate the newly acquired property, but will go toward hiring staff to provide more health education and mental health services.
Every day, volunteers, including specialists and physicians, donate their time and talent, which is part of the reason why every $100 donated is worth $2,033 in care, Garrison said.
According to the 2012 financial report, Good Samaritan received $5.6 million in donated services, which is just part of the $10 million of total support given to the nonprofit, including money from hundreds of individuals.
On Wednesday, Good Samaritan presented its annual Christmas Coffee Open House to thank 80 community partners for their ongoing support.
“We invited people who help us every day,” Candler said.
Good Samaritan’s community partners include WellStar Health System, Cobb & Douglas Public Health, Kaiser Permanente, Northside Hospital, Emory Adventist Hospital, Cobb2020 and Kennesaw State University.
Uncertain future of ‘Obamacare’
In a letter to supporters dated Nov. 20, Hornsby said the Good Samaritan Health Center of Cobb has plateaued in the number of residents the clinic can treat.
Being at maximum capacity, Hornsby said, prompted him to apply for the federal grant.
Yet, because of the federal government, the health center is uncertain about the future path of health care in America, Hornsby said.
Hornsby said he does not know how the Affordable Care Act will affect Good Samaritan’s patients, many of whom have never had health insurance and do not understand deductibles and copays.
The entire Good Samaritan staff will be educated on the Affordable Care Act, with some personnel dedicated to informing patients. The majority of patient questions so far, Hornsby said, has been focused on how much the insurance will cost, how much the penalty will be for not signing up and if patients who gain coverage can still be seen at the Good Samaritan Health Center.
Hornsby said he has no idea if Obamacare will be either a hindrance or a benefit to his patients, and the situation was only made more unclear by Georgia being one of four states not expanding Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
But regardless of the direction, Hornsby said, Good Samaritan will provide services to people who are not eligible for health care subsidies under Obamacare and do not qualify for Medicaid.
“We will be here to help no matter which way it goes,” Hornsby said.
Spreading the love of Christ
The Good Samaritan Health Center has a staff of 25 people, with 12 full-time employees — many of whom started as volunteers, like the bilingual office personnel who started as interns with KSU’s Spanish program.
“Our mission is to spread the love of Christ through quality healthcare to those in need,” Hornsby said.
Jackie Razo, the business operations manager for Good Samaritan, has been with the center since it opened and has seen the nonprofit “grow tremendously.”
In 2012, the center had 23,583 patient visits, which is more than five times the case load the nonprofit started with in its first year of operation.
Razo said “in order to show Christ’s love,” she keeps in mind her own faith and the reason she works for the center.
“These are people who are hurting physically and emotionally,” Razo said, and many of the patients have been turned away by other medical providers.
“I would want someone to extend a hand to me,” Razo said.