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The Bay Health Foundation works to make health care services more accessible

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – A local foundation is proving its commitment to the people of Bay County by continuing to make health care services more accessible to those who otherwise couldn’t afford them.

The Bay Health Foundation was formed more than a decade ago after Bay Medical leased the hospital to Ascension Sacred Heart. Since then, the board has been investing the money back into the community with more than $5 million in donations spread among a list of organizations.

On Thursday, the list grew at the 11th annual grant recipient luncheon. The foundation presented a $500,000 check to 14 local health and medical groups.

“There’s so much need out there. We’re trying to do what is direct patient care, not indirect, so that helps patients who are indigenous, who have a need, and that’s who we aim to help,” Dr. Jim Cook, the Grant Committee Chairman for the Bay Health Foundation, said.

One of those organizations is the Life Management Center of Northwest Florida, located in Panama City.

Center representative Kristina Williams said this money will go towards their primary care clinic, which typically serves those with persistent mental health problems. Williams said these are some of their most vulnerable patients. Oftentimes, they neglect physical health while focusing on their mental well-being.

”They are low income, they’re uninsured. They have no access to primary medical care anywhere else. So, the fact that we’re able to provide that treatment for them right there on site where they’re already receiving their mental health care is invaluable. Without the support of the Bay Health Foundation, we wouldn’t be able to do that,” Williams said.

Another notable recipient is the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, which works one-on-one with abused and neglected children. Executive Director Lori Allen said the additional funding is partially what kept them open after the disaster hit with Hurricane Michael.

“It helped us to be able to sustain and when this increased after such terrible things that everyone was going through. We were still able to step up and we didn’t scale back, we actually increased our services and so it’s only through the generosity of agencies like the Bay Health Foundation to do so,” Allen said.

Foundation representatives said they plan to continue their annual donations, doing what they can to strengthen health care services in the area.

A list of the organizations recognized on Thursday:

  • Anchorage Children’s Home
  • Angel House Bereavement Center
  • Avicenna Free Clinic
  • Basic NWFL
  • Bay Cares
  • Bay County Council on Aging
  • Covenant Care
  • FSU Foundation for Early Childhood Autism Program
  • Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy
  • Life Management
  • PanCare
  • Second Chance of NWFL
  • St. Andrew Medical Center
  • The Arc of the Bay