After seeing what its CEO and Director Miriam Schwarz calls a “dramatic decline” in fundraising, the Western Carolina Medical Society has begun looking for financial resources outside the nearly $450,000 request the nonprofit presented to Buncombe County Commissioners to fund Project Access. The program provides medical care to low-income, uninsured Buncombe County residents by connecting them with community partners and physicians who volunteer their services at no cost.
“We have a lot of nonprofits in this community doing great things, and we're competing for scarce resources in this economy,” Schwartz says. “We're aware that both public and private funders are operating with fewer dollars, while at the same time, dealing with higher demand for funding from many nonprofits.”
This year, Schwarz outlined the financial request for Project Access before the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. Funding from the county has consistently been the primary source of income for the program. However, Schwarz says the impact of Project Access in the community cannot be denied.
“We believe in the short-run the program will stay viable and fully functioning because it's desperately needed. We think that our local and state funders will see to it that it continues in the short term,” she shares. “In the long term, a program like Project Access would probably evolve into [one] that helps patients find a appropriate resources for insurance products, but also helps them if they have medical needs and not yet signed up for appropriate insurance.”
But regardless of what happens when the county's fiscal year begins in July, Schwarz says her nonprofit will continue to provide services through Project Access — no matter what.
“We're already working on a worst-case scenario where we would have to restructure,” she says. “But we would not compromise the integrity of the programs for patients, particularly during this time of need. This would be exactly the wrong time to shrink the program substantially.”
— Caitlin Byrd can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 140, or firstname.lastname@example.org.