Granny’s Attic awards grants to wide range of island health services

Now in its second year of funding community health programs, Granny’s Attic recently awarded several grants intended to address a range of health-related needs on the island.

Last month, Granny’s members voted to approve nearly $100,000 in grants to seven different island organizations and programs. The largest grants included $60,000 for Vashon Youth & Family Services (VYFS) and its medical voucher program and $32,000 for Vashon Community Care (VCC). That grant will help cover the cost of caring for one of the residents paying with Medicaid and provide up to $12,000 in matching funds for the new Vashon Community Care Foundation.

Additional grants were awarded to the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness for the dental van’s services, to The DoVE Project in part to support a teen workshop, and to the Franciscan Medical Group to assist with transportation costs for off-island employees. The Granny’s board also decided to double its annual scholarships for graduating seniors and will now provide four $1,000 scholarships, according to Tim Johnson, the manager at Granny’s Attic.

Susan Chun, the president of the Granny’s Attic board, said Granny’s members are pleased with the variety of services and programs they now support and are learning a lot about island organizations in the process.

“We are having a great deal of satisfaction by being able to be involved with different programs,” Chun said.

At VYFS, Debbie Rieschl, who has administered the medical voucher program since it began in 2012, said vouchers for free medical care are still much in demand, even with the Affordable Care Act in place. While more people have insurance, those with low incomes often need assistance with co-pays and medications. Additionally, going to necessary medical care off-island, such as chemotherapy treatment, can be costly, and the program also helps people with those transportation expenses.

“The grant will help with that tremendously,” she said.

The voucher program has also recently expanded to include eye exams. Rieschl said she made that decision for the health of the community when a woman came to her after an accident on the island, expressing concern that she felt she should be able to see better while driving. The vouchers cover the cost of the exam only, Rieschl said, and then people can search for glasses within their budget.

In 2012, when it began, the voucher program served only patients at the Vashon Health Center. In 2013 it expanded to include all health care providers on Vashon that accept insurance, and it has grown considerably, providing 80 vouchers for medical care its first year, 334 last year and 140 as of April of this year, Rieschl said.

Vashon Community Care has benefitted frequently from Granny’s grants over the years. Chun said in part that is because the center provides services that are epitome of health related. But also many Granny’s members are seniors and may have had family members there or be considering it for themselves.

“It’s personal,” she said.

This granting cycle, Granny’s members voted to give $20,000 to VCC to help offset expenses incurred when caring for patients on Medicaid, as Medicaid does not fully reimburse for the cost of care. An additional $12,000 will go toward matching the first month’s payment of anyone who signs up to donate monthly to the care center. Such  donations make it easy for people to give, said Truman O’Brien, who is heading the foundation, and they provide the center with a stable stream of income throughout the year.

For DoVE, the island’s domestic violence organization, Granny’s provided nearly $5,000. Betsey Archambault, the agency’s executive director, said the grant will enable the nonprofit to continue its prevention work with island teens by hosting a workshop this fall. The workshop is intended to change some sobering statistics among teens: Nearly 60 percent have experienced physical dating-related violence, and more than 95 percent have experienced psychological or emotional abuse.

“We’re thrilled,” Archambault said about the grant. “It feels like very important work.”

The next round of grants will be awarded in August, Chun said. Applications from non-profit organizations will be accepted until Aug. 1. After August, Granny’s will award grants in February. So far, the group has been awarding grants every other month. The change to twice a year will enable the members to spend less time on the granting process as well as have a better sense of just how much money the organization has to spend, Chun said.

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