Friday, December 4, 2009

United Neighborhood Health Services helps people get the care they need

ABOUT THE SERIES Season to Give stories will run in The Tennessean through Christmas Eve. They highlight Middle Tennessee residents who have bettered their lives thanks to help provided by local charities. The series will cover organizations throughout the region that help people in various age groups who find themselves in a number of difficult circumstances. In this holiday season, we hope the stories will encourage readers to contribute to the agencies directly, or to the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville or the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, which support the activities of each of the spotlighted programs. WANT TO HELP? Contact Robin Dillon, the United Neighborhood Health Services’ director of development, at 615-228-8902 ext. 130 or By Janell Ross • THE TENNESSEAN • December 3, 2009 SEASON TO GIVE: Part of a continuing series Freda Brooks spent the better part of this year living on the medical equivalent of the edge. Brooks, 49, has high blood pressure and diabetes. For the first time in her 32-year work life, she is part of the working uninsured. Brooks thinks that's what gave her the nerve to ask a coworker the kind of question that might seem impolite. "I asked her, 'How do you afford your insulin?' " Brooks said. "She told me, 'Well, I go to the United Neighborhood Clinic.' " United Neighborhood Health Services is a full-service community clinic system founded in 1976 that aims to ensure that everyone — regardless of income or insurance status — has access to the health care they need, said Dr. Keith Junior, chief medical officer. Today, the nonprofit agency operates more than a dozen clinics in mostly lower-income areas of Nashville and Hartsville and areas where other medical practitioners are scarce. The agency also takes health services to the homeless, has established clinics in a few Nashville area schools and housing projects and operates a clinic at Skyline Medical Center. United Neighborhood Health Services will take care of about 30,000 patients in somewhere between 85,000 and 90,000 office visits this year, Junior said. Of its patients, 8,000 to 10,000 are under age 19. About 55 percent of patients are uninsured and billed on a sliding scale based on income and family size. "What we try to do is see people and keep them out of the hospital if we can keep you out of the emergency room, keep people from becoming a catastrophic case," Junior said. This week, Junior, has treated what may be terminal liver disease, diabetes and the complications of diabetes, such as wounds that will not heal, hypertension, flu symptoms, high blood pressures, asthma and bronchitis. "It is a godsend, a godsend. I don't know where I would be it weren't for them," Brooks said.

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