Sherry Begley, RN, checks a patient’s heart rate at Friends in Need Health Center on Stone Drive. David Grace photo.
KINGSPORT — Friends in Need Health Center, a local nonprofit organization, is holding a fundraiser to help continue its efforts to provide medical care to the working uninsured.
The fundraiser will take place on Nov. 16 at the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center. There will be a live band and a dinner served during the fundraiser. The band is Headliners, a six-piece group out of South Carolina. Tickets for the event are $100.
“Thanks to our generous sponsors, every $100 ticket will provide for a medical or dental visit for a needy patient next year,” said Bruce Sites, executive director of Friends in Need Health Center. “In addition, there likely will be some tax refund for that as well.”
The dinner will start at 6 p.m. and the band will play from 8 p.m. until 11:30 p.m.
Friends in Need was first chartered in 1993 and began operations in 1995.
The organization was founded as a way to provide medical and dental care to the working uninsured. The only two requirements to receive help from Friends in Need is one member of the family has to work at least 20 hours a week and the family does not have medical or dental insurance.
Patients pay for the service on a sliding scale based on income. The minimum that will be charged is $0 while the maximum a patient will be charged is $80.
Friends in Need will cover 70 percent of the cost for any medical or dental procedure.
“Patients pay 30 percent right now,” Sites said. “For every $100 procedure they have, we have to raise $70 ourselves.”
Since the facility, located on 1105 W. Stone Drive, opened, it has served about 75,000 patients. The clinic sees between 6,500 and 7,000 patients annually. Around 75 percent of those patients come from Sullivan County, while 13 percent come from Scott County, Va., and 12 percent come from Hawkins County.
Because the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, went into law this year, some may think Friends in Need will be obsolete in the years to come because everyone will have insurance. Sites said that is not the case because some people could choose to pay the penalty and others may just not get health insurance.
Sites said if everyone gets health insurance in the region, then Friends in Need will change their business model to continue helping the poor.
The clinic relies heavily on volunteers and a good relationship with the medical community to keep the costs of services down. Both Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance are Platinum Level sponsors of the clinic.
The clinic offers a range of medical and dental procedures to their patients. Everything from teeth cleanings to routine medical tests is conducted at the clinic. Friends in Need employs one part-time medical director and one full-time dentist.
The clinic has around 1,200 patients enrolled for services, but around 37,000 people in the area could use the service.
Sites hopes the community comes out for the dinner and will continue to help this organization provide medical care to the working poor.
“It’s a nice community institution that’s been around and we do good work,” he said. “It really is a ministry trying to help people who wouldn’t have help otherwise.”