Author: Katrina Ganzler
Published June 14, 2014
In life, we all strive for things that matter to us personally. Some people focus on wealth and success, some focus on education and parenting, and others may put their energy into more spiritual goals. What ever you decide to strive for, one necessity we all need in order to achieve anything else is health. It is the building block for a good quality of life. A while ago, I remember reading a quote from a doctor that said “when it comes to health, your zip code matters more than your genetic code.” If that serves to be true, we are fortunate enough to have the Heart of Florida Health Center in our backyard serving Marion County residents.
Since 1991, the Heart of Florida Health Center (HFHC) has been achieving their mission to improve the overall health status of Marion County residents by providing quality primary medical, dental and mental health services to all residents, but specifically to those residents who would not otherwise be able to access these services due to financial limitation and/or lack of health insurance. Originally, the goal of opening the Heart of Florida was to provide patients with a better alternative to spending many hours waiting to be seen in the ER for non-emergency situations. Now, the HFHC provides a comprehensive range of preventative and primary healthcare services across all life cycles.
Some of the patient services they offer are full diagnostic and assessment services and follow-up treatment for sick visits, well care, chronic care management and preventive services for patients of all ages. In addition to medical treatment and evaluations, clinical services include immunizations, gynecology, mental health services, electrocardiograms, radiology and laboratory testing. Currently, there are 64 staff members including 15 medical and dental providers. All of these necessary components add up to critical resource in our community, ensuring health access to all.
To help clients with costs, they also have a Prescription Assistance Program, a We Care program, and a Medicaid assistance program. The minimum charge for a visit at HFHC is between $15 and $50. All charges for services rendered are discounted on a sliding fee scale according to your household income based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines, which are updated annually by the federal government. The growing poverty levels make programs like this vital to our community.
Financially, the HFHC is supported by federal and state grants, Munroe Regional Medical Center, Ocala Regional Medical Center, the County Commission, United Way of Marion County and others including donations. Last year the funding sources came out to over five million dollars however with the growing number of clients and the questions surrounding the Affordable Care Act, it is crucial for them to keep finding other means of raising money.
There are some notable accomplishments that have happened in the last few years. In 2009, the HFHC received a designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), a federal designation that offers special status. Since that time the HFHC has undergone a metamorphosis, moving from a free episodic care clinic to a robust primary care center with six locations, including new primary care sites in Belleview and Reddick along with an additional site in Ocala at the Health Department. Last week a ribbon cutting was held for their newest location in Marion Oaks which is already serving 120 Marion County residents weekly.
Partnerships with organizations like The Centers and Marion County Health Department have expanded their patient lists substantially. The HFHC served primary care to over 670 patients last year at the Centers, a population that traditionally receives inadequate primary care nationally and has a reduced life expectancy of 25 years. Additionally, they are assuming responsibility of over 30,000 patients due to recent cuts in funding at the Health Department. The HFHC will ultimately triple the patient base causing the need for even more funds.
United Way of Marion County helps fund their Children’s Dental Clinic due to the lack of dental services, a long-time problem for low-income Marion County residents. The HFHC was able to provide 1,970 dental visits in 2012.
There are a number of ways you can help the HFHC. You can make a donation here or volunteer in a number of different ways. For more information about volunteer opportunities call Susan at (352) 732-6599 ext. 207.
When you look at the bigger picture, the health of people in your community ultimately affects us all. The healthier you are, the more productive you can be with your job, family, and community. It’s no secret that healthy kids are more likely to succeed in school, opening more doors for them in the future. You may not appreciate the presence of good health, but you will definitely regret the absence of good health, because health is happiness, and happiness is a they key to a good quality of life.