CLEVELAND, Oct. 14 As the number of uninsured reaches 46.6million nation-wide, the demand for free health clinics that rely onhealthcare professionals to donate their time rises. According to a FamiliesUSA report released in September 2008, family health insurance premiums in thestate rose by 76.4 percent, while median earnings only rose by 8.9 percent.This trend puts many more Ohio residents at risk of joining the ranks of theuninsured and increases the demand for free clinic services. These clinics arein great need of primary care physicians, specialists, dentists, nurses,pharmacists, psychiatrists, and social workers to provide the comprehensivehealthcare that area residents would otherwise, not receive. At the same timeclinics are faced with a downward trend in volunteerism among younger,actively participating clinicians. That's where a non-profit program calledTAP-IN, www.tap-in.org, funded by The American Health Initiative, aims to fillin the gap.
TAP-IN is reaching out to connect the area's retired and semi-retiredhealth professionals with those who need them. TAP-IN does this by assistingthe nation's highest-quality free clinics to help meet the critical needs oftheir communities, by engaging health professionals living in and around them.
TAP-IN, which currently operates in the states of Virginia, North Carolinaand Georgia, chose Cleveland due to the well established network of freeclinics already in place and the concentration of retired health professionalsin the greater metropolitan area. TAP-IN is currently working with threeclinics in the area: The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland, NorthCoast Health Ministry, and the Lorain County Free Clinic.
Using the volunteer services of TAP-IN Clinicians provides benefits toboth clinics and clinicians:
-- Free clinics gain access to a pool of experienced clinicians to helpmeet their volunteer needs and expand services to the uninsured.
-- The uninsured in the community, particularly those with chronicdiseases, are provided increased access to care by experienced clinicians.
-- The community safety net is strengthened, and demand on alreadystrained hospital emergency rooms and private physician offices is reduced,while achieving significant and quantifiable savings.
-- Healthcare professionals are provided an opportunity to engage oncemore in a meaningful way by doing what they do best -- practicing their chosenprofession in an enjoyable and rewarding environment without the hassles ofadministrative paperwork.
Health professionals can learn about and register for the program throughthe Web site www.tap-in.org or by calling 877-605-3250. Interested volunteerswill be matched with clinic needs, ideally leading to agreement between thevolunteer and clinic to proceed. Program participants will have access to anonline community to share ideas, interests and experiences.
TAP-IN.org was founded by The American Health Initiative(www.americanhealthinitiative.org) to provide a program to help meet criticalneeds of free clinics through the volunteer engagement of senior healthprofessionals to care for the uninsured. Intended to be a national program,TAP-IN was introduced in the Spring of 2006 in Virginia and North Carolina inpartnership with both the Virginia and North Carolina Free ClinicAssociations. The program is supported by a two-year initiating grant from TheAtlantic Philanthropies.