The Norman Transcript

November 13, 2012

Health for Friends thankful for support

By Brian Karnes
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Thank you, Norman. With your support in the last year, more than 1,300 people received 4,200-plus medical visits and more than 600 people received 4,000-plus dental procedures. However, those are just numbers. Each number is a person who, thanks to you, gets to live a better life.

Thanks to you, three women, with limited incomes and no insurance, took advantage of our “well woman” exams and learned they were in the earliest stages of breast cancer. They are now being treated, and each of them has a positive prognosis.

Thanks to you, a young mother of two who was temporarily without insurance due to changing jobs obtained the insulin she required that, if not for Health for Friends, would have cost her more than $4,000 per month, an amount completely out of reach for her and her family.

Thanks to you, one of our dentists recognized the signs of physical abuse in a young woman who came in for a filling and was able to enlist the help of our social worker in helping her find help and resources.

Thanks to you, Norman, these individuals and countless others have received high-quality, low-cost medical care, dental care and prescription assistance through Health for Friends over the last year, preventing countless trips to the emergency department for otherwise routine care and contributing to the overall physical, mental and economic health of our community.

And thank you for the support and confidence in our services that has resulted in our opening the doors to the new pediatric practice in our new Women and Children’s Center, a facility that will allow us to serve as a primary health care home to many of the uninsured and medically underserved children living in and around Norman.

Over the last 27 years, with your help and support through your gifts and donations, your contributions to United Way, the support from faith communities and local foundations, Health for Friends has grown from a part-time clinic staffed entirely by volunteers in a rented motorcycle garage to a multi-site comprehensive health center housing a medical practice, a dental practice and, as of this week, a pediatric practice accepting infants, children and young adults.

Both centers are staffed by fully credentialed health professionals including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, dentists, dental hygienists and registered and licensed practical nurses. While still focusing on the uninsured, we now accept Medicaid/Soonercare and Medicare, as these individuals are now struggling to find a provider as well.

Programs like our new Medical Voucher Program (MVP), made possible by supporters like Norman Regional Health Systems, will allow us to continue to help our low-income patients with affording their prescription medications.

Finally, we are now in a position to accept patients who live in areas outside of the Norman city limits and in areas with a shortage of health care providers who accept uninsured or Medicare/Medicaid patients, such as Purcell, Noble, Newcastle, Blanchard, Lexington and even Moore and south Oklahoma City. We will be seeking the investment of those communities in our work and look forward to including them in our planning and decision-making.

Looking to the future, there is still much more work to be done. Over the next few months, you will be hearing more about our efforts to be designated a Community Health Center, also known as a FQHC. This will allow Health for Friends to bring even more health care services to our patients and to continue to be responsive to our community’s most critical health care needs.

The FQHC system of community health centers dates back to the 1960s and was established to provide care for the uninsured, the homeless and those with no other health care options and to reduce the reliance on emergency departments for routine health care. We will be stepping up our existing efforts to reach out to the community to solicit your feedback regarding the availability and accessibility of care in our community.

I invite you to visit www.healthforfriends.org to provide your input and to learn more about how Health for Friends is helping build a stronger, healthier community in Norman and the surrounding area. Thank you for the confidence you have shown through your investments and interest in Health for Friends, and we look forward to another 27-plus years of helping those in greatest need of quality, consistent, comprehensive care.

Thank you again for your support,

Brian Karnes is chief executive officer of Health for Friends.

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