**Senior Friendship Centers is collaborating with Sarasota Memorial Health Care System and the Sarasota County Health Department to address Sarasota’s health care safety net for the uninsured and underinsured. The Patterson Foundation is funding a consulting team to help create a plan for a sustainable system of care.
By: Robert Carter, President and CEO, Senior Friendship Centers
Even before the Great Recession many economists expressed deep concern about the strains on our public support systems, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and related state and local programs. Now, add in unemployed and underemployed older adults, too young for Social Security, and part of an unfortunate newly-poor group.
The “safety net” we have heard much about lately is not catching all in need. Many with significant medical and dental needs wind up at the Senior Friendship Centers’ Health Clinics in Sarasota and Venice.
These health clinics are proud descendants of a unique model of community service pioneered by Senior Friendship Centers in 1978 that uses retired volunteer physicians and nurses (and later dentists) to provide needed care to low income, medically under-served older adults.
Initially designed to serve those of age 60 and above, the age was lowered to 55 and then 50 at the request of the local Public Health department, who maintains the governmental oversight for these clinics. Since its inception, these volunteer-provider clinics have worked in close partnership with the Sarasota County Health Department and Sarasota Memorial Hospital to help meet some community “safety net” needs.
The service business model has changed dramatically over the years with most of the individuals served by the clinics now uninsured. Limited grants and fundraising are not covering the costs of the limited necessary paid staffing to make this volunteer service model financially sustainable into the future.
As part of Sarasota County’s Health Care Safety Net Partnership supported by The Patterson Foundation, we are striving to be part of a collaborative community response. As a group, we are stepping forward to inventory our local assets, identifying best practices and collaborative opportunities so we can better serve and support, while drawing on the richness of talents and resources already in our community.