Driving to Fulton County, I realized why this rural area might be considered similar to Schenectady. However, the two have some distinct differences. For example, Scehenctady is very densely populated, with lots of housing and people crammed closely together. In contrast, Fulton County is rural, with more land allowing houses to be distanced from one another.
In fact, the rural geography of Fulton County poses an interesting and serious dilemma: how do people get to and from the hospital if they need medical attention? In my previous blog, I talked about how 13% of the population in Fulton County lives below the poverty line, and without many options of public transportation, it is often difficult for individuals to get to where they need to go. In fact, upon deeper investigation, it became clear to me that residents of Fulton County, 6.5% do not have health insurance, may really struggle when it comes to getting proper medical attention, whether that be for a doctor’s appointment or something more urgent. Of course, having Medicare or insurance alleviates this burden. However, those things are very hard to get, especially for this community.
Before COVID, living in this county with minimal income was very hard. They receive only necessities from the local government. If residents have no money for food and their young children, they have to go to the department of social service and get tickets. Not only is getting groceries in the first place hard but gaining access to fresh and local produce is even harder. Although the Salvation Army has fresh products once a week, the staff and supply are limited- making it nearly impossible to support everyone in the community. Additionally, if residents lose their housing and need a temporary place to stay, they are again in trouble. One of the only remedies the county currently offers for this is the one hotel in the community, which works with the social service department to take in only a limited number of people. If someone falls ill or gets injured, no one wants to call an ambulance because they are scared of the bills that come after the visit. Moreover, if they need to see a doctor but were uninsured? They are screwed. If someone needs dental services but do not have dental insurance, there is nothing a person can do in that situation.
While access is limited, there are systems in place within the community that try to offer what they can to residents. For example, the county offers public health programs for younger children who are disabled. Additionally, organizations such as Planned Parenthood offer affordable (and sometimes free) women’s healthcare, and the one YMCA in the county offers income-based memberships. While these entities do what they can, limitations make it difficult to keep up with the high demand. An example of this is the social services department, which takes care of domestic violence and child abuse, but due to the limited staff and resources, it is impossible to take care of all those in need. This is often a heartbreaking situation for social workers, as such lack of resources forces them to pick and choose who to help first, potentially putting others, not receiving help, at risk.
If life was difficult, even pre-COVID, imagine the situation now. With even more limitations to things like job opportunities, and housing resources, violence and hunger rates spike. While stimulus checks may help, the solution is merely temporary. As far as healthcare, if a family does not have insurance, and a member, for example, contracts COVID and needs medical care, the family is faced with a deep financial burden. On top of that, there is only one small public health center in Fulton County, and it seems as though you cannot get here without transportation. Living in this kind of environment can definitely add stress to residents, potentially resulting in health issues throughout time.