Helping the Helpers: DuPage Health Coalition assists the uninsured, working poor
The COVID-19 crisis has affected everyone, but people who are low income or uninsured have been particularly hard hit, according to the DuPage Health Coalition.
The Carol Stream-based nonprofit, founded in 2001, works to help open doors to health care for low-income families and offers programs to connect patients to quality care.
The Daily Herald checked in with Kara Murphy, president, to learn more about the organization.
Q: Who does your agency serve, and how do you serve them?
A: (We serve) low-income uninsured and underinsured DuPage County residents. Our clients represent the working poor -- with 91% of households with at least one working adult and an average income of $26,124 for a family of four. Although most of our programs focus on adults age 18 and older, our typical client is a working parent in their 40s.
Members in our programs gain access to high-quality low-cost health care delivered by thousands of local health care providers and every hospital in DuPage County. More than 27,000 prescriptions were provided to our members last year through our pharmacy benefit and through our free pharmacy, the DuPage Dispensary of Hope. Members in our Silver Access Program get help paying for health insurance, and all of our patients get access to health education to make it easier to get care they need efficiently and effectively.
Q: From where do the majority of your donations come? Is there an annual fundraising event?
A: DHC collaborates with a diversified network of funding partners including every major health system in DuPage, local townships, private foundations, faith communities and individual donors. We take their trust in us very seriously and are careful stewards of our resources, with 94.8% of revenue going directly to patient care. We are in the process of planning our first fundraising event to commemorate and celebrate our 20th anniversary.
Q: About how many people per year does your agency help?
A: At least 6,000.
Q: How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your organization and its ability to help those in need?
A: We have long known that being uninsured causes health disparities, so it is not surprising that the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionally affecting the uninsured. The COVID pandemic has also hit low-income households especially hard. Nationally, 40% of low-income households are reporting loss of income, and many families have lost insurance as a consequence of employment changes. As of July 9, the DuPage County Health Department reports 9,507 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 478 COVID-19 deaths. Notably, there is a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. In fact, they report that the COVID-19 case rate among Latino residents is 5.4 times higher than that of non-Latino residents. This is especially troubling as Latinos are also almost 13% less likely to be insured.
COVID-19 made it much harder for people to come to our offices or our enrollment sites for help, just as needs were on the rise. Since many uninsured families are also being served by local food pantries, schools, churches, and mosques, DHC has reached out to them for help. The response has been outstanding; a host of local partners are now including DHC materials with their emergency food boxes and outreach efforts. Additionally, we have made it easier for uninsured families who aren't able to enroll in ACA health plans within the eligibility period timeline to get temporary assistance through our programs, and we are enrolling members by phone and giving them extra time to provide the necessary documents.
Q: Tell us about your new initiative, the Community Face Mask Project.
A: The DuPage Health Coalition recently asked their patients if they needed face masks and was shocked to receive more than 2,500 requests within a day of first inquiring. Thousands more have followed in just the first week since the program began.
To meet the demand, the DuPage Health Coalition is reaching out to the community with a request for aid to ensure that everyone has personal protective equipment to keep their families safe and help control the transmission of COVID-19 in our community.
The Health Coalition's new Community Face Mask Project is gathering cloth masks for patients, local families, and other nonprofit service organizations. Masks for both adults and children are needed.
Q: How can readers help your organization?
A: Now more than ever, it's so important that every member of our community have access to affordable health care. Anyone who wants to help can make a donation at accessdupage.org/donate-now. Every dollar of direct cost is matched by more than $10 in donated services. Physicians can also sign up to participate in Access DuPage on our website. And if readers are connected to organizations that could help to share news of our programs, we would be grateful for that assistance as well.
To assist with the Community Face Mask Project, you can help by making masks, donating purchased masks, and/or providing financial support. Learn more at accessdupage.org/mask-drive.
Q: If someone is in need of your organization's help, what should they do?
A: Call (630) 510-8720 or visit accessdupage.org.
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About this series
"Helping the Helpers" is a series of short stories on how you can support suburban social service agencies impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Know of a nonprofit or agency we should feature? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.