The goal is to help bring insurance or medical care to Columbia County's uninsured.
A local group is hoping to do just that by organizing a Columbia County health care task force.
Julie Miller, the executive director of Family Connection of Columbia County and coordinator of the yet-to-be-formed task force, said a small group of leaders from Harlem, the Columbia County Health Department and Cooperative Extension Service, Family Connection and community groups held their first organizational meeting Feb. 3 to discuss potential task force members.
Once formed, the task force will address short- and long-term health care needs in Columbia County and awareness of health care needs and resources.
The Family Connection has been trying to bring Project Access, a group of area doctors who offer medical care to the uninsured and pay for prescriptions, into the county. Project Access has been operating in Richmond County for several years. But it will take a $200,000 investment to get the program started in Columbia County.
"It's not actually just Project Access. Project Access is just one piece of it," Miller said. "We know that's sort of a long-term proposition for us. That's $200,000 and it's going to take a while to raise that."
Miller said a survey showed that nearly 8,000 Columbia County residents did not have health insurance in 2004.
The group plans to meet with Wesley United Methodist Church officials about the church's Faith Care Clinic, which provides health care to the uninsured at twice-monthly clinics. But that clinic is booked three months ahead of time, Miller said.
"Clearly, there is a need, just from that," Miller said.
After talking with community members, leaders and businesspeople, Miller said she hopes to form the task force with representatives from all area governments, community groups, the board of education, medical reserve and the health care and insurance industries.
"We said let's have a short- term plan trying to help the immediate need and a long- term plan of setting up this larger health care (program) Project Access," Miller said. "But also awareness and figuring out all the different resources there are in our community already."
Miller said the short-term plan might include expanding The Faith Care Clinic by adding a day of care in Grovetown or Harlem and a health fair.
"It's really going to be more about resources for people who don't have insurance," Miller said, adding that health checks such as blood pressure tests also will be performed at the fair. "Helping people understand what the process is. (We'll invite) health care providers and other resources in the community so we can help answer any of the health-care questions they might have."
The long-term plan for the task force, Miller said, is to bring Project Access to Columbia County.
In the meantime, Miller said her group will be recruiting task force members and educating themselves on Columbia County's health care needs and resources.
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