Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Employees of the Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett Alida Rodriguez, Margarita Herrera, Mary Robb and Julia Chung sort through paperwork at the nonprofit organization which provides medical services to the uninsured in Lawrenceville on Friday. Due to a lack of donations, the center needs additional funds to help with the 50 percent increase of need.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- On a daily basis, Good Samaritan Health Center helps between 45 and 50 uninsured patients with non-urgent medical needs for a fraction of the cost of what they might pay elsewhere. But now it is the center that needs the help.
The Lawrenceville faith-based nonprofit owes $640,000 to the bank for its mortgage from when it purchased the building five years ago before the economy crashed. It needs to raise at least $150,000 by February in order to successfully refinance the mortgage.
"It's not a crisis yet, but the issue that we need to deal with is that we bought this building at a time when the real estate market was in the up-swing," Executive Director Greg Lang said. "We owe, in round numbers, $640,000 on the building. We think it's worth about $420,000 with how the market is right now, but I have a big financial hurdle to deal with before February 2013. I need to go to the bank with some money."
Good Samaritan has a small staff of paid employees, functions with the work of student volunteers from nursing and medical school, and receives most of its funding from foundations and churches. A small amount of the donations comes from individuals in the community, but the center is looking for more help.
"Since we are literally losing $29 per appointment, seeing more patients isn't going to help," Lang said. "The only way I can deal with that is with the community saying, 'We know you're there, we value you being here and we're going to help you stay.'"
One major reason the clinic has been struggling this year is because the demand of its services has increased 50 percent since 2011.
"There was a time period were we only saw the very poor who had minimal jobs like day laborers," said Sharon Chalmers, nurse practitioner volunteer and facility member at North Georgia College and State University. "Now we're seeing professional people that do have jobs but no insurance."
And the patients are all ages from different religions and ethnic backgrounds. Fifty-eight percent of patients are Latino and 73 percent are women.
"Woman want to feel safe. They know this is the place that they will get care and will be treated appropriately," Chalmers said.
No matter who is being treated, the community benefits from the center being opened because less people head to the emergency room for non-life threatening ailments while still receiving quality treatment.
"I think (Good Samaritan) provides and meets many needs of the community," Nurse Practitioner Calli Cook said. "It serves as a health care facility and patients are able to have affordable care and access to care as well as their spiritual needs met. It's a very holistic approach to care."
To keep up with its programs, Good Samaritan is asking for assistance from anyone.
"I'm really hoping that people would be willing to give to us once just to take care of this hurdle," Lang said. "If people don't want to be on the mailing list, get an appeal letter every quarter ... that's OK. If you can help us keep the doors open between now and February, then that's a blessing to us."
For more information about the center or how to give a donation, visit goodsamgwinnett.org.