Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett Executive Director Gregory Lang hears the same thing often from the cooperative ministries he works with: co-op clients who come in requesting aid also need some sort of medical treatment.
The problem is, health care is expensive.
“Almost anyone who would access a cooperative ministry is looking for a clothing closet, donated food or assistance with housing, and if you have any of those problems, you also are very likely to have a medical condition that is unattended,” Lang said. “If you can’t afford the rent, you probably can’t afford to go to the doctor. If you can’t buy clothes or buy groceries, you are (probably) uninsured — we just kind of make that correlation.”
While Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett’s two Norcross facilities are intended to combat the high medical cost problem — the nonprofit offers reduced price medical and dental services — it can be difficult for those who don’t live in the Norcross area to get to the centers.
“Good Samaritan Health Center was discussing how we might serve other parts of the county without having to buy another medical clinic and install an expensive facility like what we have in Norcross,” Lang said. “The idea of residing in another nonprofit came to me based on my experience about a decade ago when I worked at a homeless shelter in Atlanta. I recalled that as I was thinking about how we could expand, and it seemed to me that we could do the same thing if we could just find the right partner.”
That right partner — or two partners, actually — came along sooner than Lang anticipated; this July and September, Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett will open two “quick clinics” in HomeFirst Gwinnett’s Norcross homeless shelter and assessment center and in the North Gwinnett Co-op’s new Buford building, respectively.
The clinics, which will function similarly to a CVS Minute Clinic where a provider will be able to prescribe medication and help with other non-emergency medical needs, are intended to help meet Gwinnett’s demand for low-cost healthcare, Lang said, while also ultimately allowing Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett to provide more services for the community.
“We are in the service business and we want to continue to serve the community wherever there is a need. As a faith-based organization, it is our desire to go out and meet demand whatever it might be in Gwinnett County,” Lang said. “But (these partnerships) will also allow us to increase our portfolio. There’s a lot of competition in the health care nonprofit space where people keep raising money for the same kind of programs, and it’s helpful to us to be doing something unique or creative because it catches the attention of donors.”
Without donors, Lang said, Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett can’t function, and without the Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett, fewer people will have access to the non-emergency care they need.
Without that care, what may have begun as a simple medical problem can turn into a hospital visit.
“A lot of people show up in the emergency room not necessarily because they have had a sudden onset of something, but because they’ve finally been overwhelmed by a problem they’ve been neglecting too long,” Lang said. “If there’s affordable, convenient access to health care for those people, it has great potential for preventing a trip to the emergency room when their symptoms get too significant to ignore.”
The partnership doesn’t just benefit those who are ill, though; with these clinics, instead of trying to find often costly private transportation to Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett’s Norcross clinics, HomeFirst Gwinnett and the North Gwinnett Co-op staff can just walk a client around the corner and they’ll be treated in-house, meaning staff will have more time to focus on meeting clients’ other needs.
“It’s going to allow them to provide a more immediate relief to the people that are coming to their (buildings) for something other than medical,” Lang said.
Looking to the future, Lang said these partnerships might just be the start of something new for Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett.
“It’s really so practical that it’s probably going to be our ongoing expansion model,” he said. “I mean, we have 25,000 square feet of office space in our two locations in Norcross, and both of those are $2.5 million-dollar investments ... they have a (total) annual operating budget of $3.5 million.
“It becomes cost prohibitive to multiply, but with these ‘quick clinics,’ whether it’s one or two rooms somewhere inside someone else’s facility where they have unused space, it becomes very practical for us to go in there because we can operate that clinic for around $150,000 a year and potentially take care of a couple of thousand patients.”
For more information about Good Samaritan Health Center of Gwinnett and its new clinic opening dates, visit goodsamgwinnett.org.