RALEIGH, N.C. — An estimated 16,000 teens in Wake County are uninsured, and one in five of them lives with at least one serious health problem.
Wake Teen Medical Services, a nonprofit formed in 1977 by Dr. Michael Durfee, serves 1,800 patients a year, one in five of them uninsured, and most with health needs that typically are not the focus of other medical providers.
That’s up from 600 patients the nonprofit served just 10 years ago.
And with the number of teens living in the county expected to grow by 23,000 over the next five years, demand for services at the agency is expected to continue growing, says Joyce Wood, executive director.
“In order to more comprehensively reach out to adolescents in Wake, we’ve expanded our service offering and made it more comprehensive and holistic,” Wood says.
To cope with growth, the agency is expanding its services, working to diversify its fundraising and planning a move to larger quarters.
Wake Teen serves patients ages 10 to 23 with a range of primary-care medical services, mental-health services and health education, often in partnership with other agencies, including the YWCA of the Greater Triangle, Haven House and SAFEchild.
With $25,000 from the Kids ‘N Community Foundation of the Carolina Hurricanes, for example, Wake Teen is expanding its preventive health-screening and obesity-prevention program.
The program will provide 100 teens with visits to nutritionists, and offer their parents education on good nutrition, healthy cooking and healthy shopping choices.
The agency counts on contributions, including government grants, to cover over half its annual budget of more than $930,000, with patient fees and insurance generating most of the remainder.
“We have relied heavily on large state grants,” Wood says. “So we’ve come to realize we really need to develop relationships with individual donors and family foundations, and go back to the heart of the mission.”
To underscore and build on its roots as a community-based nonprofit partnering with other providers, Wake Teen is creating an endowment and reaching out to new donors and partners.
With a $20,000 gift from an anonymous donor kick-starting its endowment, the agency is seeking other endowment gifts;
And as a training site for pediatric and family-practice residents from the medical schools at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill, the agency will be looking for support from those and other partner institutions.
Wood says Wake Teen also expects by spring 2009 to move to new quarters totaling roughly 5,000 square feet, compared to the 3,700-square-foot offices on Oberlin Road near Cameron Village that now house its staff of 14 people.
“We are certainly expecting to continue to grow,” she says. “We are always on the lookout in the community for adolescent health needs that are not matched by someone else, or needs that are just too great for any one person or organization to meet on their own.”