By Giuseppe M., Alachua County
I’m 19 years old and I ran away from home around March 2021 due to a complicated situation I was going through with who I was living with. I had Medicaid throughout my life and when it came to basic health care such as vaccinations for school, I was covered. However, if something more serious occurred health-wise, my family had to scramble to pull money together to pay for out-of-pocket costs. I remember being told “you might not get a Christmas this year” when moments like those would happen. At the same time, I recall plenty of experiences in my life when I got really hurt, or when someone in my family got really hurt, and we just had to resort to basic first aid. We just didn’t have the money to deal with those issues beyond that.
Before leaving my home situation and moving to Gainesville, my mom was on the verge of losing her Medicaid eligibility because she started making “too much” to continue to qualify. My family experienced a lot of financial issues throughout my life and it’s just frustrating when I think about the way Medicaid eligibility is determined in this state. Since running away, it has been a struggle for me to have access to all of the documents and paperwork that I’d need if I were to try applying for Medicaid on my own, and I don’t even know if I’d qualify. Merely confirming your identity is difficult when you don’t have access to all of your necessary documentation.
In my current financial situation, I can’t even fathom having to pay for health care. This is why I’m so lucky that a friend introduced me to the Equal Access Clinic. From March 2021 until recently, I was just going about my life without medication or health services, despite needing them. Although I have a few physical health issues– ranging from problems with my wrist, my stomach, my back, and one of my legs– most of the issues I’ve needed help with are mental health-related. Going without treatment for my mental health issues became a normal part of my life until I found out it wasn’t okay to live like that. When I talked to people about what I was going through, they’d react by saying things like, “Oh my God! Are you okay?” However, I was just describing another typical day in my life. Thanks to the Equal Access Clinic, I started taking medication to treat my depression around August 2021. Without my friend, I wouldn’t have known about this clinic and the services it offers, including free therapy nights.
The fact that Florida did not accept the federal funds to expand its Medicaid program in order to help more people is so frustrating. It’s an act of negligence on its own citizens. In my opinion, there shouldn’t be a need for free clinic nights because health services should be more accessible to people. Nonetheless, I’m thankful that clinics like the Equal Access Clinic exist because there are a lot of people in my situation who would just be suffering without the services they provide.
Going through what I’ve been through is a very lonely process, but in reality, there are so many of us going through the same thing. There are so many people who don’t know about the Equal Access Clinic, and I really think more awareness needs to be spread about these clinics in towns where they exist. I’m also aware that there are towns in Florida that don’t have clinics like this one. I think we really need to have more resources available in Florida to help people begin their health care journeys.