Free healthcare for mothers in need

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- With the rising cost of healthcare, it's common to find single mothers who make too much to qualify for government help and too little to afford health insurance.

It is exactly where Valeria Ramirez found herself after a divorce, leaving her and her children without healthcare. “We actually didn't go to the doctor for 2 years. I didn't do the dental checkups, I didn't do the eye checkups,” said Ramirez.

Because she is a working mom, her income was above the level for state aid, but she says, far below what she needed to buy insurance, “And when you have to consider housing, food everything, health insurance kind of does end up in the last on the list.”

It is a problem former critical care nurse, and nurse chaplain, Marge Ebeling sees all the time, “The single working mom families there is easily 200-thousand of these single working mom families in Maricopa County alone. “

Which is why 13 years ago, Ebeling, took an unusual step, “And so I kept talking about it to my late husband, who said you ought to do something about it. So sat around our kitchen table with 12 practitioner friends of mine and we said let's start a foundation."

What she started is the Wellcare Foundation, which has steadily grown every year since.

“The first year we had 30 practitioners who volunteered for free and now we have 150 and five clinic sites.“

Its mission is to offer something Ebeling says seems unbelievable to moms like Ramirez, free healthcare.

“They kind of look at you at that first, is this really for free. They are waiting for the hook you know."

Well there is a hook; it is simply that you need help. Ebeling explains how she set up the model, “Are you single, working, not on state assistance, head of household, and a mother. “

After that, she says, “Our labs are free, our x-rays are free, our care from all of our providers are free.”

That is thanks to more than 150 health professionals who volunteer their services, in all types of practices, says Ebeling, “Doctors, nurses, therapists, nurse practitioners, DOs, MDs, naturopathic physicians, massage therapists, acupuncturists, nutritionists.

The foundation even provides urgent care.

The whole focus is on preventative care, and as the name implies, well care. Ramirez says she has learned about providing more nutritious meals for her kids, gotten her entire family more active, and found emotional support, “Not just you have a toothache and that is it. No it is everything that is going on in your life. Which is really amazing. “

Ramirez says, what's more amazing, the security of knowing no matter what she can keep her kids healthy.”That is just priceless, that peace of mind of just how i can feel, they'll be safe.”

Ebeling says the payoff is a better community for all of us, “We want to get you well, and your children well because you are going to change the community, sick people can't change the community. Well people can. “

Wellcare has provided more than $3 million dollars in free health care. Because the foundation does maintain five clinics with nursing staff to manage cases, it does need corporate and individual donors. Of course, it can always use more providers.

You can visit their website for more information.

Phone: 602.263.7619

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