A Neighborhood Improvement Journal - Summer 2021


Back to Archives


Establishing a Neighborhood Health Care Resource Bank - Part I


By Fred Gillette





There are currently over 46 million Americans who should feel seriously insecure about their immediate health care options, despite the Supreme Court's actions in upholding the Affordable Care Act. This situation will probably persist at a troublesome level for at least the next year and a half, and, for many, well beyond that.  Many of those in peril are too young or too old or too distracted to fully appreciate the precariousness of their situation, but there are millions of others who, although they may feel secure about their own health care options, are disturbed by the plight of others less fortunate.  Many families and individuals remain just one serious illness away from lifelong financial ruin.  Many more, although not likely to be destroyed financially, face serious difficulties and distress about keeping themselves and their families healthy.  There are some low cost and no cost options available, including free clinics, subsidized care and various other forms of help. But many people, through lack of information or affliction with diminished capacity to act, or adrift in depression or hopelessness, are left disconnected from the resources that do exist. 

At this point in time, there is much turmoil revolving around full development and implementation of new solutions to these problems.  But while the many competing approaches are sorting themselves out, what is to be done if the need is now?  Bringing it down to the level of community resources, there are things that we can do to help those in our own neighborhoods who have such needs.  In any neighborhood, regardless of its relative affluence, there are uninsured or underinsured people who likely could benefit from knowledge of the range of options that are immediately available. 



Although it is usually not within the practical abilities of neighbors to directly assist each other with health care needs, it is within the power of a neighborhood organization to match up those in need with the local resources which might be helpful.  This process can consist of anything from posting a list of free or low cost clinics to giving counseling and advice to someone seeking affordable health care.  A few hours of research can unearth these resources and a few more hours could be sufficient to organize them in an accessible manner.  This would include devising a way to display the information in some public forum.  Some members of a neighborhood organization may even be able to provide direct personal advice to inquiring neighbors regarding options.  Most likely, a truly valuable healthcare information and referral system can be established-- one that requires little maintenance and only occasional updating .


A possible structure


Although your resource bank may take any one of a number of forms of organization, here’s a potential starting outline and the likely essential components.



Make accessible to your neighbors, a short summary of the current local situation regarding insurance options.  There will likely be some form of health insurance exchanges established in the not-too-distant future.  Meanwhile, you can get some useful comparative information about insurance plans at Consumer Reports or Healthcare.com.  You may use these services to sort out the information relevant to people in your locale.

Those who may have lost insurance coverage due to loss of employment may be eligible for temporary continuance of their insurance through COBRA (Consolidated Budget Reconciliation Act). This way they can keep their current coverage for 15 months and, in some cases, up to  29 months.  They may also qualify for up to a 65% reduction of insurance premiums.  Family members who were already covered under a work plan may continue their coverage as well. Of course, this may not be a practical alternative if all resources available are needed to keep the individual or family afloat.



Clinics offering low or no cost services in your immediate area can be identified.  For your information bank, you can summarize their policies regarding meeting the needs of low income or underinsured users and provide contact information and office hours. These clinics are funded by charitable organizations and by the government. They provide mostly routine and preventive care. Some offer only services in specific area such as prenatal care or mental health.  Even those unable to meet your neighbors’ immediate needs usually are able to provide referrals to other, more appropriate clinics. 

To begin your search, you should contact the federal government’s Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) at 1-888-ASK HERA or search ask hrsa online. You may also search online for “free medical care in (your locale)”.

Your local pubic library may have referral information compiled for your area, listing not only clinics but other healthcare resources as well.





Regulations vary from region to region, but most hospitals are obligated to provide care, through their emergency room services, to those without means of paying.  You can contact your local hospitals for information on how one may go about most efficiently availing oneself of these services.   Assuming that the need does not represent a true emergency, some kinds of services may require an appearance at particular hours or on particular days. At the hospitals, social workers or billing departments can also help you identify other local health care resources.  They can also help with Medicaid or other program applications.




In Part II, appearing in the Fall 2012 issue, we’ll examine other resources, including Medicare, prescription drug assistance and dental care, along with methods of growing and promoting your database in and around the neighborhood.













(federally funded health centers)










(good general resource)





A most direct exploration of local resources may be conducted by simply searching online for “free (medical or dental) care in (your locale)”






tip jarNeighborhood Life depends on your financial support.