By Emily Banks Wooten
The Polk County Emergency Health Board (PCEHB) is a 501(c)3 organization that was established in 1986 to assist low-come (by federal guidelines) children and families with acute illnesses requiring immediate attention.
“What a year it has been as so many changes have happened to everyone because of the pandemic. Unfortunately, we have been unable to schedule our annual shrimp boil fundraiser at the Cochran-Hughes Ranch, but we’re hoping to have a Spring 2022 shrimp boil and we want to let you know that we’re still reaching out to those who need critical medical assistance, especially with medications, medical supplies and/or gas to get to medical appointments,” PCEHB President John Muzny said.
“We continue to need your financial support for those who have limited financial resources and little or no family support for medical essentials that are often life threatening,” Muzny said.
Six hundred patients were served in 2018 at an average cost per patient of $42.47. Six hundred eighty-two patients were served in 2019 at an average cost per patient of $31.85. In 2020 only 431 patients were served at an average cost per patient of $26.49.
The social work staff and volunteers at the Department of State Health Services screen the applicants, who are referred primarily by other agencies, churches, school personnel, hospital staff and the Polk County Indigent Program. Many applicants are also referred to other programs and clinics, such as the Health Center of Southeast Texas in Livingston. Most of the families served do not qualify for government programs or may receive only limited benefits.
Medication is the primary request, with transportation assistance running second. If a child is in need, the prescription is filled and the family is given assistance in filling out a Medicaid or CHIP application. Often it is necessary to limit assistance to adults, as their medications are so expensive.
Muzny gave the following examples of Polk County residents who have been helped by PCEHB during the past year:
• A mother who is taking care of a young adult son with a brain tumor called for help as the doctor had prescribed new medications and they could not afford the insurance co-pays.
• A single adult with disabilities needed multiple medications (including mental health meds) and had reached indigent program limits for the month.
• A family needed assistance to pay for medications for a special needs child as his father had contracted COVID and lost his job, including his insurance.
• A senior couple with disabilities and on a limited income just lost their son to COVID and no longer had help with paying for medications (including insulin and diabetic supplies).
A widowed grandmother who is the guardian of three grandchildren needed help to buy medications after an emergency room visit so that she could continue caring for them with no disruptions.
“The telephone calls to PCEHB volunteers may come as a last resort from a family member, caregiver, social worker, home health or hospital staff, but all are reaching out to find assistance for patients who are often in a crisis situation and have no other options to obtain needed medications,” Muzny said.
“We all want to do our part in making the community that we share a better place. We want to continue providing medical assistance and referral services to help them avoid the ER, saving money for everyone. Because volunteers provide needed services, only minimal administrative costs for mailings are needed for this program,” Muzny said.
“A gift of love to PCEHB from your heart to the hearts of those who desperately need it is so precious to out Polk County neighbors. Where does the love go? It is in the bottle of medications that you provide, in the gas to get to medical appointments, in the medical supplies to bind an open would, and in the sharing of our blessings with those who not only need our help, but hope and a future,” Muzny said.