If your child gets sick, you take him to the doctor and buy an antibiotic at the pharmacy. It’s pretty simple.
But if you’re a single parent of four children, and you’re just scraping by on your salary, what do you do? How are you going to afford the doctor’s bill and antibiotics, especially if all four kids get sick? That’s where CARE Chest of Sierra Nevada comes in.
Located in north Reno, CARE Chest was founded in 1990 by three local pharmacists, who were aware that a large segment of the population was uninsured or unable to afford medical care. The organization was created to provide free medical supplies, equipment and emergency medication to those people.
By 1992, CARE Chest had helped 334 people with medical equipment, and in 2003 alone, the number served was over 6,000. “All donations stay here in Northern Nevada and help local people,” said Patti Meals, executive director. “It’s really rewarding to be providing a direct, tangible service.”
CARE Chest of Sierra Nevada assists anyone in need, regardless of age or disability. Need is primarily determined by income, but other factors such as living expenses come into play. Eligibility can be determined on the phone in a matter of minutes. “Usually we look at whether they’re making less than $1100 a month, if they live alone or have no insurance,” Meals said. “They might make more than $1100, but maybe they were in a major accident this year. We look at everything.”
Items provided include canes, walkers, shower chairs, liquid nutrition, diapers, diabetic supplies (such as syringes and insulin), respiratory supplies, commodes, colostomy and ostomy supplies and lice shampoo. With emergency medications, once eligibility and need are determined by phone, the client presents a prescription to a local Long’s or Scolari’s, and CARE Chest picks up the tab.
“We reach every part of the population, from newborns to the elderly,” said D’Lisa Crain, development director. “Maybe someone’s started a new job and health insurance hasn’t kicked in yet. Or maybe they’ve just lost a job. We fill that gap.”
Meals remembers a Reno construction worker in his twenties who needed CARE Chest. The man was jumped by a gang while out walking with his girlfriend, and he lost all his teeth in the fight. “He didn’t have health insurance and he was very proud, but he couldn’t eat,” Meals said. “Here’s a great case of somebody who thought it would never happen to him, and we have hundreds of stories like that.” Crain added, “A lot of people don’t think of healthcare as a basic need, until they’re not healthy. But if you’re so sick that you can’t eat solid food, then the liquid nutrition we provide is a basic need.”
CARE Chest is always looking for volunteers to maintain equipment in their warehouse, to answer phones, to make deliveries, or even to shovel snow. Additionally, donations of supplies, medications and, of course, money are readily accepted. Some consumables are also helpful. “If you have half a package of diapers, we’ll take those. Someone who’s desperate can use them,” said Crain. However, she suggests calling first, to determine if the donation is usable or needed.
There are many ways for businesses to help, such as event sponsorships or financial donations. Crain also suggests a “supply drive”, where businesses collect medical supplies to donate, similar to a food drive. Not only is it tax deductible, but the impact of a donation can be seen immediately. “Helping people to be healthy and remain independent is probably one of the best gifts you can give,” Crain said.
To make a donation or to volunteer with CARE Chest of Sierra Nevada, call (775) 829-CARE, or call toll-free at 1-866-206-5242. Or visit the CARE Chest web site at carechest.com.