Hundreds of households avoided eviction or received rental help and 464 people received help with their prescriptions this year, thanks to community donations to Extend-a-Hand, The Bellingham Herald’s annual charity.
Last holiday season, community members donated $39,269 to Extend-a-Hand. All of that money has been spent this year helping needy people in Whatcom County.
Extend-a-Hand funds help patients with their medications at Unity Care NW, formerly Interfaith Community Health Center. It also helps helps low-income residents find and keep rental housing through the Opportunity Council, a nonprofit community agency.
The Herald covers the charity’s administrative costs for up to $50,000 in donations, so gifts directly support people in need. Donations are tax-deductible and donors are recognized in The Herald.
At Unity Care, Extend-a-Hand support helped 464 patients with prescriptions: 208 uninsured patients with health care and 256 patients with insurance who needed help with co-payments. Those helped include:
▪ An 81-year-old man with Medicare pharmacy insurance who needed blood thinning medication called Enoxaparin to treat a blood clot. After his insurance payment, he was left with a $151 co-payment that he was unable to afford.
▪ A 66-year-old man with commercial insurance who needed a prescription inhaler called Advair for treatment of COPD, a lung disease that causes difficulty breathing, and could not afford the $74.51 co-payment.
▪ An 81-year-old man with Medicare pharmacy insurance and in the “doughnut hole,” a portion of Medicare prescription drug plans where the expenditure has hit a certain dollar amount so the majority of costs of prescriptions are shifted from the insurer to the patient. He lives with type 2 diabetes and requires an insulin called Levemir to control his blood sugar and could not afford the $185.21 co-payment for the insulin.
Extend-A-Hand assistance helps so many because the needs are also for small amounts, including:
▪ A 38-year-old woman with Medicaid who was seen at Unity’s new dental clinic and received a prescription for a fluoride toothpaste to strengthen her teeth. The fluoride toothpaste wasn’t covered on her insurance for anyone older than 19 years, and the patient didn’t have $5 to cover the cost of the medication.
▪ And, a 13-month-old girl insured with Apple Health who needed Vitamin D supplements that aren’t covered by the health plan. Extend-a-Hand helped her mother with the $5 cost of the Vitamin D medication.
At the Opportunity Council, 126 households avoided eviction or received other rental help. And Extend-a-Hand funds provided shelter to 30 families with children who were homeless.
One family that was assisted was living in a tent when they asked for help at the Opportunity Council last winter. Family members had recently found jobs but were unable to save enough money to cover first month’s rent and deposit. The family received Extend-a-Hand assistance with move-in costs and moved into safe, stable housing. Family members remain employed and the family is still in their home.
Extend-a-Hand also assisted a family of five that had received a three-day pay or vacate notice and was facing homelessness last summer. When the family came to the Opportunity Council, the father had recently been laid off from his job and the mother had left her employment due to health issues. With the loss of employment, the family fell behind on rent and didn’t have the resources to get caught up. With help through Extend-a-Hand, the family was able to avoid eviction. Shortly after receiving assistance both parents were able to find jobs and the family continues to thrive in their home.
Mail donations: Extend-a-Hand, c/o Opportunity Council, P.O. Box 2134, Bellingham, WA 98227
Drop off donations: Opportunity Council, 1111 Cornwall Ave. Credit card donations are accepted.
Details: Jackie Rafata-Rinker, 360-734-5121, ext. 333