Mercy Heart Clinic gets $30K grant

CONYERS - Mercy Heart Clinic got a major boost Friday when it received a $30,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente.

The money will be used to provide health care to uninsured and underinsured Rockdale County residents through the Mercy Heart Clinic that will operate out of a parsonage of the former Hope Baptist Church at Ga. Highway 20 and Kay Terrace.

Mercy Heart Clinic was created by First Baptist Church of Conyers last year as a way to meet the health care needs of the community. Organizers said they hope their efforts will benefit not only the patients directly but also reduce the burden on other health care providers in the community.

Last year, Rockdale Medical Center treated 8,328 non-emergency, uninsured patients in its emergency department. Indigent care costs for RMC have been around $12 million to $14 million annually. Mercy Heart organizers said they hoped to reduce the number of emergency room visits by providing non-emergency medical and dental care.

The grant money was the first of $150,000 Kaiser Permanente said it planned to invest in several metro Atlanta counties where access to health care is a concern. The grant for Rockdale County was facilitated by the United Way.

Milton Little, president and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, said at the grant presentation that the efforts in Rockdale County are an example of what his organization wants to duplicate across the region.

"We shed tears when we hear stories from people of pain and suffering, so we should also shed some tears when we figure out what to do to help out," Little said.

The grant was presented to Howard Greer of Mercy Heart Inc. and First Baptist Church pastor Dr. Jeff Meyers by Evonne Yancey and Gloria Kemp of Kaiser Permanente.

Rockdale County had been without a major free health clinic since the Healing Hands clinic at Lakeview Estates closed in 2004 due to rising liability insurance costs.

Oakhurst Medical Center of Stone Mountain on Wall Street took over for Healing Hands, but closed within months following its opening in 2005.

Helping Hands Community Outreach at Lakeview Estates, a nonprofit operated by Janice and Tolbert Morris, has provided health care on a limited basis as part of their overall educational mission.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.