Despite losing grant funding from a year ago, West Suburban Medical Center will continue a program to treat uninsured and underinsured residents on the West Side.

In 2000, West Suburban, located at 3 Erie Court on the Austin and Oak Park border, first introduced the Reach Out to provide primary care to West Side patients between 18-to-64 years old who suffered chronic medical illness but had limited means of treatment.

Some of these patients, according the West Sub, sought treatment at least four times within the year.

Five years into the program, the hospital received a two-year $1.85 million Health Communities Access Program(HCAP) grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

The grant, however, was discontinued in its second year. West Suburban briefly discontinued the program to revise it with plans of reintroducing it in January of this year. In its current incarnation, it provides services to uninsured and underinsured patients with accessibility issues on the West Side.

“In 2006, the program was revised to include not only those with chronic illnesses but those uninsured or under-insured,” said Molly Gaus, public relations manager forWest Suburban Hospital. “When the patients come in for evaluation, outreach workers look at their cases and decide where they can obtain the help they are looking for.”

This may include access to physicians at area clinics that accept their medical insurance, or commuter passes allowing patients to commute to their appointments if their funds are limited. It may also include housing if their illness prevents them from maintaining a place of residence.

Kathy Wright-Hicks, 47, found her primary care physician through the Reach Out program after she’d been admitted into the West Suburban emergency room for bites caused by bugs in her home.

“While I was being treated, I received information about the program and was hooked up with my current outreach worker Michelle,” said Hicks, an Austin resident and mother of three.

Hicks is currently unemployed, but attends Malcolm X College to study drug counseling. Hicks is one of 3,265 patients that have received community referrals through the program since it re-opened on Jan. 28.

“We have an 80 percent success rate for those who seek treatment through our program, which is good, although we want it to be higher,” said Amy Jo Gladfelter, the program’s coordinator.

Gladfelter oversees the outreach workers who are responsible for meeting with inpatients for one-on-one consultation at hospital.

Discharged patients receive follow-up phone calls and letters from workers who also provide them with a list of additional resources.

For more information on the Reach Out program call 708/763-2842 or 708/763-2843.