Our newest series, A United Thread, highlights the importance of pulling together to collectively serve our community through an unprecedented time. In each segment, we feature an organization awarded COVID-19 grant money through United Way of Central Carolinas.


As a result of the coronavirus crisis, our community’s most critical nonprofits are feeling the strain as they experience an increased demand for services while simultaneously navigating decreased financial resources. Within multiple counties across the Charlotte region, United Way of Central Carolinas established COVID-19 response funds in partnership with Foundation For The Carolinas, and with the support of corporations, local government and others to assist local nonprofits serving on the front lines.


In this segment, we connect with Don Jonas, executive director of Care Ring, to learn how the organization is navigating the pandemic.



How has COVID-19 impacted Care Ring?


Jonas: COVID -19 has impacted our work in many different ways. Most notably, we are serving more clients in the clinic than ever before and the social needs of our clients are increasing by the day. The people we serve are being disproportionately affected as they are losing jobs, running out of food, becoming increasingly worried about maintaining their housing, etc.


We’re also seeing an increase in mental health needs among our clients. Another challenge we have faced is around securing the funding necessary to maintain our operations at 100% capacity.



How has the organization adapted the way it delivers on its mission during the pandemic?


Jonas: We had to make immediate shifts in our service delivery to remain open and ensure the safety of our clients and staff. We recognized the need to revamp our clinic to focus on telehealth visits even though our clinic had never done remote visits. The majority of our patients have underlying health conditions and the safest way for us to care for them is remotely.


In a matter of days, all of our providers were offering telehealth services and within a week, we were meeting or exceeding our normal daily visit capacity. We were also able to quickly secure sufficient PPE and create a clinical protocol that would allow us to safely see patients in-person on an as-needed basis.


In response to an overwhelming need for access to food, we have also shifted staff roles to implement an emergency food delivery service. This allows us to provide immediate relief for clients while we make referrals to longer-term food support with our partner Loaves & Fishes.



How is Care Ring using the grant money it received through the COVID-19 Response Fund?


Jonas: We have been very fortunate to be the recipient of COVID-19 Response funding, which has provided the necessary funds needed to continue meeting the demand for services. Once the funding has been fully expended, United Way will have enabled us to provide care for more than 2,000 people during a time when losing access to care would be catastrophic.


The funding has been used to maintain capacity for services in our clinic and through Physicians Reach Out, which coordinates care for thousands of patients remotely. Since receiving the funding we enrolled/renewed 1,200 clients in Physicians Reach Out and served more than 500 unique patients in the clinic. This funding has also been particularly important to sustaining the telehealth program in the clinic.



What’s one personal testimonial you can share about the organization’s impact in the community?


Jonas: A gentleman came to Care Ring’s clinic as a new patient very concerned about his health. Because our clinic remained open to new patients and in-person consultations, we were able to do an exam and found he was newly diabetic (undiagnosed) and that his illness was severely out of control. Our clinical team was able to set him up with a glucometer for at-home monitoring, insulin samples and educated him on the importance of diet. To continue monitoring his condition, we were able to set him up with telehealth visits going forward.


Being able to take him in as a new patient allowed us to diagnose his condition, provide supplies and education and keep him out of the emergency room, alleviating additional burdens on our hospital partners while they are addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.



Outside of COVID-19, what is something people should know about Care Ring’s partnership with United Way?


Jonas: From supporting our growth 20 years ago as a primary care clinic for the uninsured, to our expansion as a regional hub for 1,500 volunteer doctors banding together to serve others, United Way has been a steadfast partner and supporter of our work.


From the day we launched the proven poverty-fighting Nurse-Family Partnership home visiting program almost a decade ago, United Way stood with us, shoulder-to-shoulder, to champion a vision where all families receive the support they need to thrive. From reaching 100 moms and their babies when we started, to being able to assist more than 300 families today, United Way support fueled our passion to grow this program’s impact.


In more recent years, as we looked to take our services beyond the walls of our clinic and home office, United Way provided resources and encouragement to dream bigger and reach more people. Today we are on site every week in multiple Charlotte neighborhoods educating, promoting good health and referring people to us or to other health agencies as needed. United Way allows us to meet immediate needs in our community for high-quality, affordable, accessible health care for all people.


Learn more about United Way’s COVID-19 response efforts here.