The We Care Jacksonville Health Network is completing its 20th year providing free care to Jacksonville residents who are uninsured. In 2012, the value of the care donated totaled more than $16 million!
Twenty years ago a small group of physicians met to tackle a community crisis. Too many of our poor citizens without health insurance were suffering from preventable diseases and coming to our emergency rooms where care was too late or too expensive.
What evolved was the We Care Jacksonville Health Network, now a loose affiliation of 750 doctors and dentists, many other volunteers, 12 independent free clinics, eight hospitals and one rehabilitation hospital.
Care is provided without charge and occurs across the city, not only in the free clinics but in hundreds of private doctors’ offices, in hospitals and in imaging centers.
Many donors help, including large contributions in recent years from the city of Jacksonville, United Way, the Florida Blue Foundation and other local corporations and foundations.
Only some of the 150,000 with no insurance will find coverage in the next two years under the Affordable Health Care Act. For the rest, We Care will remain one of the only lifelines to good care. The challenge for We Care is to assemble a truly integrated network.
As a beginning, two new initiatives are under way this summer.
First, every doctor and dentist in Duval County will be contacted and asked to become a volunteer. Much of the need would be fulfilled if every one of these professionals agreed to see just eight patients per year.
Second, We Care is working closely with the 12 independent clinics so that they will have the volunteers and other resources they need to be open longer hours. There will be help also with fundraising, insurance navigation, medications and case management.
Jacksonville can be proud of its remarkable volunteer spirit. These clinics, their volunteers and the specialty physicians deserve our ongoing support.