Dallas CareLink Health Center Opens for Business
CareLink of Northwest Georgia’s community health and resource center, intended to provide low-cost, high-quality medical care and support resources, officially opened last week and delivered its first day of operation.
The building, near downtown Dallas at 625 W. Memorial Drive was acquired from WellStar and was being readied for the opening over the summer and completed last month.
According to Rita Norris, chair, Board of Directors with Carelink, “CareLink opened for business November 6th. This is the culmination of a four-plus years dream to provide affordable, quality health care to our Paulding County residents,” Ms. Norris said. CareLink's purpose is to serve as a primary care medical facility for Paulding County residents between 18-64 years of age who have no insurance.
According to the 2018 county health ranking, 16 percent of Paulding’s residents between the ages of 18 and 64 have no insurance, which equates to about 15,600 persons, Norris told Paulding County commissioners earlier this year.
Alternatives for these people range from doing nothing when they become ill, going to work ill, or toughing it out for hours waiting in an emergency room, she told the board.
“These are not particularly good options for our people,” Norris said. “So what we will be offering is a limited medical facility.”
But Norris points out that CareLink is not a 100 percent free clinic. All patients will be expected to pay a $25 [cash] processing fee at their initial visit. Future payments will be dependent upon a patient’s financial analysis, she said.
CareLink is a 501c3 non-profit organization that will work with WellStar, Norris explained.
“Although we have a very strong relationship with WellStar Health System, we are an independent organization,” Norris stressed and added, “Wellstar, as our partner, will be providing imaging and lab services for CareLink patients through the Paulding Hospital.” CareLink is and has been created as a 100 percent volunteer-run organization. Providers (Doctor, Nurse Practitioner, and Physician Assistants), Nurses, and administrative volunteers are needed to ensure that the clinic can provide ongoing services to Paulding County residents.
Treatment will be geared primarily to conditions that address many Paulding County residents, Norris said, such as COPD, Type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems, obesity and a few more. Carelink President Guy Scull said that initially, the clinic will open for about a day and half a week at first and then gradually expand the hours of operation. CareLink is open on Tuesday’s from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday’s from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30. Carelink is not a walk-in clinic and works through appointments only.
Facilities like CareLink can provide a vital link in strengthening the chain of delivering better health services throughout the county. According to data provided in a cost analysis study done in 2016 by Georgia State University, CareLink can potentially reduce the [patient] traffic to WellStar and “...save WellStar over $900,000 [per year] by decreasing the number of uninsured seen in the emergency department for non-emergency services.”
And the study noted that “...the cost of the unmet needs to the community of Paulding County adds up to over $465 million annually. Providing access to primary care through the community health center could save the community anywhere between $3 million and $11 million annually, dependent on the number of patients who engage the center’s service.”
Overall, the study noted, if CareLink’s clinic sees 4,000 patients annually, it could save WellStar $915,266 through a reduction in their uninsured emergency department visits and hospitalizations. For more information on how you can support CareLink both financially and through volunteering in our clinic (medical and office), please contact our Board Chair, Rita Norris, at 404.536.8762 or email: , or visit www.carelinkga.org. In the event of a medical emergency, please call 9-1-1, not CareLink.