By Joe Jarosz
April 6, 2016
KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Ten years ago, Dr. Elaine Joslyn had an idea to better provide for her Northeast community.
By creating the private, not-for-profit organization Northeast Neighbor to Neighbor, Joslyn recognized that many residents of the historic Northeast lacked adequate resources to obtain the medical care they needed. These aren’t people on the corner, begging for a dollar. These are the residents living from paycheck to paycheck.
“The problem always arose when the patient needed a special test,” Joslyn said.
With that in mind, she established an organization that would help these residents by obtaining the care they need. Joslyn recruited Northeast residents — who shared her vision — to voluntarily serve on the board of directors.
“I had a neighborhood who told me daily, ‘thank you for being here’ and asked, ‘what we could do to help,” Joslyn said. “So I thought, I need to bring these two entities together. And I need to do that with a not-for profit.”
Northeast Neighbor to Neighbor provides support through identifying and creating access to appropriate and needed health care services, coordinating referrals to various healthcare providers, funding of needed medical services, educating clients regarding their medical needs and available medical services, and assisting clients in navigating the healthcare system. Since the start, dozens of Northeast residents have benefited from Joslyn’s idea.
“I’m not here to save the world, this was created to help the Northeast neighborhood only,” Joslyn said. “These are our neighbors who work, who have money, they just don’t have lots of money or don’t have the right insurance to cover their needs.”
Most who benefit from the efforts of Northeast Neighbor to Neighbor are patients of Dr. Joslyn. Recently, they’ve helped a number of area residents with dental work. And about five year ago, Joslyn said they started an over-the-counter program to help residents obtain over-the-counter medicine, something that isn’t usually covered by insurance.
“We’ve worked out an agreement with Spalitto’s Pharmacy because they’re private and can help,” Joslyn said. The program includes vouchers, which are distributed to area social services agencies in the neighborhood that allows the owner of the voucher a $10 credit to use at the pharmacy in order to purchase over-the-counter medicine and supplies. “We know they get a whole lot for $10. They [Spalitto’s] are great guys and were ready to jump in and help.”
David Remley, one of the board members for the non-profit organization, said the biggest issue Northeast Neighbor to Neighbor has faced over its 10 year period is that it’s geographically centered to the Northeast. Ten years in, Joslyn hoped the organization would have been bigger by now, but because it is geographically located, they are held back in that regard.
“Agencies we partner with keep an eye out for people we can help,” Remley said. “Mostly, though, [clients are obtained] by contacts in the community.”
Like Remley noted, the organization does, also, work on referrals, too. Earlier this year, Northeast resident Tracy Marriott had to have an emergency double mastectomy. With little time to gather funds for reconstructive surgery, Northeast Neighbor to Neighbor, as well as the Northeast community, stepped up and offered support.
“They came through and helped me,” Marriott said, adding this will be an ongoing issue for her.
Marriott said she had heard of the organization a long time ago, but didn’t know it would be something she could utilize. Then, through Facebook, someone put her in contact with Remley. She said the organization’s help and the community’s outreach was amazing.
“It was a godsend the way the whole community came together,” Marriott said, while holding back tears. She noted doctors advised her not to move around, so she could heal properly from surgery and keep pain levels down. “It was hard for me because I wasn’t going to be able to work or pay bills. This is a nightmare for someone who isn’t prepared. I’m so grateful to the community. It truly felt like a miracle to me.”
Over the next couple years, Joslyn and Remley said they’ll work to educate the community more on healthcare, with programs at the Kansas City Museum and around the Northeast. The third arm of the agency is advocacy.
“As a 501(c)(3), we can’t lobby, but we certainly can advocate for the health of our neighborhood,” Joslyn said.
If you or someone you know would like to contact Northeast Neighbor to Neighbor, visit http://nnncares.org/.