Abbott and Abbott Fund Provide $1 Million to HealthReach to Increase Access to Care and Expand Services at Area’s Only Free Health Clinics
Announced During “Cover the Uninsured Week,” Partnership to Address Local Health Care Challenges; Local Uninsured and Under-insured Estimated at More Than 30 Percent of Lake County Population
Abbott Park, Illinois, April 23, 2007 — On any given day, several dozen patients walk through the front doors. Some days, patients are lined up outside, waiting for the clinic doors to open. Children suffering from asthma or ear infections. Elderly patients working to manage their heart disease or diabetes. Even patients needing new eyeglasses or a teeth cleaning. Thousands of uninsured patients like these throughout Lake County count on HealthReach — the county’s only free health care clinics — for their health care needs. Now these patients, and more like them, will have access to more health care services thanks to a partnership announced today between Abbott/Abbott Fund and HealthReach.
Abbott and Abbott Fund, the company’s philanthropic foundation, will be providing $1 million in new support to HealthReach, including $750,000 in grants from Abbott Fund which will allow HealthReach to double the capacity of its clinic in Mundelein, Illinois. This grant will also support ongoing operations at HealthReach’s clinic in Waukegan, Illinois. and planned pharmacy facilities in Libertyville, Illinois. In addition, $250,000 of Abbott Fund’s support will be issued as a “challenge grant,” with the organization providing matching funds to encourage other companies and donors to support HealthReach’s efforts to expand access to health care for the area’s uninsured population. Abbott is contributing more than $250,000 in volunteer support and medical products, including a year’s supply of a number of critical medications including antibiotics and products to help manage thyroid and heart disease. Abbott engineers are also volunteering their time and expertise to oversee the renovation of the clinic.
Growing Crisis of Uninsured in Northern Suburbs
In the United States alone, there are almost 45 million people without health insurance. Medicare, Medicaid, and other public insurance programs make up about 20 percent of federal spending, with Medicare alone costing nearly $300 billion annually. Despite its status as one of the wealthiest counties in the country, more than 30 percent of the population of Lake County is uninsured or under-insured, according to the Lake County Health Department. This includes 14.7 percent medically uninsured and 17.1 percent under-insured. Typically lacking sufficient coverage for preventative care and early diagnostic testing, under-insured individuals often delay treatment visits due to cost. This results in unnecessary hospitalizations and worse health outcomes, placing a greater burden on the patients and on the local health care system.
HealthReach Provides a Health Care “Safety Net”
HealthReach provides free, high-quality preventive, primary and specialty outpatient care in the areas of pediatrics, cardiology, ophthalmology, neurology, dentistry and many others. At its two clinics in Mundelein and Waukegan, HealthReach currently provides patients with free medicine through its on-site dispensaries, and is planning a new pharmacy in Libertyville, Illinois. to help manage patients’ needs for prescription medications.
HealthReach’s two clinics had more than 12,000 patient visits last year, double the number from just two years ago. These numbers are expected to increase further, as the clinics see 100 new patients a month.
“HealthReach acts as the last safety net for thousands of people in Lake County, including many working families with children. Right now we’re only able to serve a small fraction of patients in need; with the Abbott Fund grant and new support from additional donors, we’re looking forward to expanding our services to help meet the growing need for free health care,” said Jim Zimmerman, executive director of HealthReach.
“Providing health care services to the people who need it is important to all of us. The tremendous work of HealthReach is an example of what can be accomplished through partnership. By working together, volunteer physicians and nurses, local hospitals, policymakers, and local companies and foundations like Abbott and Abbott Fund, can help expand access to health care in our own communities,” said Reeta Roy, divisional vice president, global citizenship and policy, Abbott.
Abbott Fund Provides Grants; Abbott Provides Skilled Volunteers, Products
Abbott Fund support will be used to renovate HealthReach’s Open Door clinic in Mundelein, also known as La Puerta Abierta. Over the past two years the number of patients seeking care at this facility has dramatically increased, but the cramped facility is not equipped to keep up with the growing number of patients. When renovations are complete in the fall, the clinic will include new patient exam rooms, dental exam rooms, a clinical laboratory, and additional space for medical records and office support. Abbott Fund also will support the ongoing operations of the larger HealthReach clinic in Waukegan, and the planned pharmacy facilities in Libertyville.
In addition to providing funding support and free medical products, Abbott employees are volunteering their time and expertise to help with engineering, design and construction project management to move the renovation project forward. Additionally, Abbott Fund also is supporting the development of a long-term strategic management plan for HealthReach to assist with business integration and efficiencies, as well as capacity building.
“With support from Abbott Fund, HealthReach continues to fill a critical need, providing high quality, free health care to the growing number of uninsured people in Lake County. Without access to the primary and specialty care provided by HealthReach, many more patients would be flooding into emergency rooms in area hospitals,” said Illinois State Senator Susan Garrett, Chair of the State’s Public Health Committee. “I applaud the efforts of HealthReach and corporate citizens like Abbott who are stepping forward to meet this growing need. Much more needs to be done. I encourage other area leaders, from local hospitals to Chicagoland’s corporate community – to step up and match this support.”
“I was absolutely elated to hear that Abbott was contributing to such a worthwhile organization as HealthReach. This is an organization that will help benefit the entire community,” said State Senator Terry Link.
Addressing Health Disparities for Minorities in the Suburbs
Significant health care disparities exist for the area’s minority populations in the northern suburbs – nearly half (49 percent) of Hispanics and more than a quarter (27 percent) of African Americans are uninsured or under-insured in Lake County, according to the Lake County Health Department.
Approximately 75 percent of patients seen at HealthReach clinics are Hispanic, which reflects the broader growth of the Hispanic population in the north suburbs. According to the U.S. Census, from 1990 to 2000, the number of Hispanics in Lake County increased by 140 percent, and this growth has likely continued in recent years. To help meet the growing health needs of Hispanics, Abbott Fund and HealthReach partnered to expand the HABLA (Health Care Access By Language Advocacy) program. This innovative program was designed by HealthReach to train individuals to act as medical interpreters between Spanish-speaking patients and English-speaking physicians. Thanks to Abbott Fund’s support, HABLA has since grown to be a self-sustaining program, providing an important service for patients and economic empowerment for interpreters who now work in health centers across the region.
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