Ron Baumgartner has no doubt: “Without Erie, I’d be dead.”
“I was more or less homeless…more or less suicidal,” says Ron. He was self-medicating mental health issues with heavy alcohol use, and dealing with the dual diagnoses of HIV and hepatitis C. An old friend invited him up to Chicago. Her apartment was across from to Erie Humboldt Park Health Center, one of our 13 locations. What he found inside, saved his life.
An Erie behavioral health therapist guided Ron into AA, then into sobriety. Erie’s Lending Hands for Life staff welcomed him into our comprehensive HIV/AIDS program. They provided Ron with medical care, case management, a dietician and a support group. His HIV is now well under control. With his interdisciplinary team’s support, he recently quit cigarettes.
Even after overcoming so much, Ron still felt his last battle would be the one to finally do him in. Having twice been denied treatment for his hepatitis C, he admits that he had lost hope. But Erie family medicine doctor Tina Wheat had Ron’s back. “When I was about to give up, Dr. Wheat went the extra mile,” he says.
Through persistence and connections through Erie’s partners, Dr. Wheat and Ron’s case managers were able to get him his life-saving hepatitis C medication. Ron’s meds were delivered to Erie on a day he happened to be in the clinic. “I usually just hand people a prescription,” says Dr. Wheat. “But it felt so good to be able to personally hand him his first round of pills.” Ron’s hepatitis C will be cured in 12 weeks.
“Life didn’t wait for me, but I’ve caught up with it. I’ve got a good run ahead of me.” Ron is staying fit at the gym. He plays with his two dogs, and his grandson. For the first time in years, he’s returned to his hobby of drawing portraits.
Erie Family Health Centers is dedicated to serving the most vulnerable members of our communities, and to treating our 70,000 patients with compassion, dignity and respect. Medicaid reimbursements and sliding fee payments from uninsured patients don’t come close to covering the average cost of a patient visit to Erie. So we must rely on your donations to provide care. Help Erie provide nationally top-ranking medical, dental and behavioral health care to those in need, regardless of their ability to pay.
“Now I don’t have an excuse – I’m going to live a long life,” Ron says.