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Editor’s note: These two letters, from West Volusia Hospital Authority Commissioner Dr. John Hill, and Brenda Flowers, founder and CEO of one of the nonprofit organizations that receives funding from the WVHA, were presented at the WVHA’s Sept. 10 meeting, for inclusion in the record. 

As part of an overall effort to cut its budget, WVHA has been debating cutting funding to Flowers’ nonprofit, Rising Against All Odds, a move one speaker at an earlier meeting claimed was motivated by the fact that many of RAAO’s clients, as well as its founder, are people of color. 

The letters demonstrate different perspectives on the mission of the WVHA and its efforts to provide health care for those unable to pay. 

Final budget decisions for the WVHA are scheduled to be made at a meeting Thursday, Sept. 24. Preliminarily, RAAO’s allocation has been cut from $50,000 to $40,000 for the coming year.

Both letters have been lightly edited for clarity and/or length.

BY BRENDA FLOWERS

Over four years ago, the Rising Against All Odds Inc. health-card campaign prescreening program was initiated in consideration of the West Volusia Hospital Authority Board of Commissioners’ concerns about citizens not being able to access care across the spectrum, and the board’s hopes for a solution to reach communities that were unreachable through traditional methods.

RAAO’s prescreening program has allowed RAAO to capture a distinctive group of residents that otherwise would have barriers to the West Volusia Hospital Authority Health Card process, and barriers to access to health care.

The social disparities we see among underserved populations and other impoverished citizens are the results of structural inequalities that make these people more likely to foster chronic illnesses and to come in contact with disease, and less likely to seek preventive care or care maintenance. 

RAAO dismantled barriers to applying for the WVHA Health Card for this population. We stand in the gap to rise above structural inequalities.

We currently interact with a broad base of citizens, who may be restricted and discouraged due to demographic, economic, cultural and financial circumstances, or by lack of transportation and proximity to access points, which act as barriers for the application process. Many citizens feel they are unable to gain access to the “system,” nor are they able to influence decisions affecting their lives.

RAAO’s prescreening program is not a duplicate of The House Next Door health-card program, but rather adds inclusiveness in ensuring all of our citizens, particularly those communities of high need, have equality in access to care within this taxing district. 

RAAO’s prescreening program service brings value and benefits that continue to serve communities of high need. For these groups of citizens, the WVHA Health Card is the last option to aid them in acquiring the health care they need.

The minimum request we have submitted will benefit the WVHA taxing district by adding capacity to provide services for the citizens who have no health coverage and no means of obtaining health coverage on their own. 

Discontinuing or underfunding RAAO’s prescreening program would further disenfranchise these communities. While millions of dollars are spent for state-of-the-art facilities, the avenues for linkage to health care are being decreased, re-creating the very barriers to access to health care that funding is proposed for.

Assisting those with unique demographics and social and economic barriers to health care by assisting them in applying for the WVHA Health Card is beneficial in lowering the number of emergency-room visits, which directly benefits the taxing district of West Volusia.

— Flowers, of DeLand, is founder and CEO of Rising Against All Odds, a nonprofit organization based in DeLand, whose mission is to raise awareness about HIV, expand access to testing for HIV, and connect its clients with health care.

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