WHAT WE DO

For Patients & Community

WCMS strives to strengthen the well-being of people in need of healthcare and of our entire community. Learn more about our programs, as well as our scholarships for minority youth pursuing health careers and our charitable Community Health Endowment below.  

Medical Care for Low-Income and Uninsured Residents

PROJECT ACCESS FOR THE COMMUNITY

Haga clic aquí para obtener información en español sobre Project Access para pacientes.

About Project Access

Founded in 1996, Project Access is a ground-breaking healthcare volunteer initiative providing access to comprehensive medical care for low-income uninsured Buncombe and Madison County residents. We are now partnering with organizations in McDowell, Mitchell and Yancey counties to provide access to speciality care. More than 2,500 individuals receive healthcare through Project Access annually. The WCMS Project Access model has been replicated all over the country, with similar programs operated by organizations in over 30 states.

Project Access celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2021 and made a video about the program. Watch the  video in English here and in Spanish here and learn more about the program, its impact and some of the people who have helped make it successful!

How Project Access Works

Our dedicated network of more than 700 medical providers along with Mission Hospital, local pharmacies, WCMS Interpreter Network Interpreters, mental health providers, community health navigators and other generous volunteers – all supported by donations from businesses and individuals in the community – provide healthcare through Project Access to individuals in Buncombe and Madison counties without reimbursement.

Project Access is not health insurance; it is however a way to help our community members stabilize their health so that health insurance is more attainable.

Frequently Asked Questions

To enroll, you must be:

  • Uninsured (including Medicaid, Medicare, Tricare or any health or disability insurance);
  • A resident of Buncombe or Madison County for the last 12 months;
  • At or below 138% Federal Poverty Level.
  • Referred by a primary care provider. We do not accept self-referrals.

Mention WCMS Project Access to your primary care provider.

If they are a participating provider, they will know the steps to take to get you referred. If they don’t participate and would like to, please refer them to our Providers page. If you don’t have a doctor, PA or NP you see regularly, see the list of area primary care providers here.

Your primary care provider’s office will send us your contact information, then you’ll receive an application in the mail (this usually takes 1-2 weeks).

Please make sure your provider’s office has your current mailing address to prevent delays! You will return the application to us (via mail, fax or drop-off) along with some verification documents: a copy of a photo ID, proof of income, and proof of residence.

Our team will review your application and make a determination whether you qualify for Project Access. You’ll receive a letter in the mail informing you of the decision. We also let your provider’s office know, and if you are approved, we let any specialists know that your provider will be referring you to them.

Project Access covers primary care, specialty care, labs, imaging, procedures and surgeries, and hospitalizations.

These services must be recommended by a provider via a referral. It does not currently cover emergency room visits (or subsequent hospitalization), urgent care, dental, endocrinology or podiatry. Certain procedures may not be covered (depending on if the provider is willing to do so). Buncombe County residents are eligible for low-cost prescription drugs through Project Access.

All Project Access patients are eligible for durable medical equipment (such as crutches, CPAP machines, eyeglasses, orthopedic braces) up to $250 annually.

Let us know about it.

If you get a medical bill for a service during your Project Access enrollment period, please email a copy of your bill to projectaccess@mywcms.org .

Within your application, we’ll ask you questions about needs in other social and economic areas in addition to healthcare.

Project Access works with numerous other organizations in WNC to help connect our patients to services related to food, housing, help with utilities or home repair, transportation to and from medical appointments, childcare during medical appointments, employment, health insurance eligibility, and interpersonal safety.

Our staff are trained to help you navigate the system and connect you as needed to important services that contribute to your overall health.

Yes! An interpreter can be provided to you, free of charge both to you and the clinic, if you are an enrolled Project Access patient.

Please have your doctor’s office call our Interpreter Network (WIN) at 828-274-0950 to arrange an interpreter. The interpreter can help you set up the appointment over the phone and attend the appointment in person with you. Video interpreters are also available.

Yes – our staff are Certified Application Counselors (CACs) who can assist eligible consumers with the Health Insurance Marketplace (HIM) during Open Enrollment periods.

We can also refer you to area organizations that specialize in health insurance enrollment, such as Council on AgingPisgah Legal Services and Hummingbird Insurance Company.

Outside of Buncombe County? You can find additional information on obtaining health insurance here: localhelp.healthcare.gov/#intro

If you do not have a primary care provider (MD, DO, PA or NP), you can contact one of these community clinics:

Western North Carolina Community Health Services (WNCCHS)
257 Biltmore Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
828-285-0622

Dale Fell Health Center (part of Appalachian Mountain Community Health Centers)
7 McDowell Street
Asheville, NC 28801
828-257-4745

ABCCM Medical Ministry
155 Livingston Street
Asheville, NC 28801
828-259-5339

Blue Ridge Community Health Center
2579 Chimney Rock Rd
Hendersonville, NC 28729
828-692-4289

Blue Ridge Community Health Center – Arden
2695 Hendersonville Rd.
Arden, NC 28704
828-692-4289

Leicester Community Health Center (part of Appalachian Mountain Community Health Centers)
711 New Leicester Highway
Asheville, NC 28806
828-253-3717

MAHEC Family Health Center – Biltmore (see website for other locations)
121 Hendersonville Road
Asheville, NC 28803
828-257-4730

Mashburn Medical Center– Hot Springs Health Program
590 Medical Park Dr.
Marshall, NC 28753-6807
828-649-3500

Mars Hill Medical Center– Hot Springs Health Program
119 Mountain View Rd.
Mars Hill, NC 28754-9500
828-689-3507

Hot Springs Medical Center
66 NW US 25/70 Hwy.
Hot Springs, NC 28743
828- 622-3245

Laurel Medical Center – Hot Springs Health Program
80 Guntertown Rd.
Marshall, NC 28753-7806
828-656-2611

This list was updated March 2021. It does not include all primary care providers in the area, and WCMS does not have information whether each clinic is accepting new patients.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR MINORITY YOUTH PURSUING HEALTH CAREERS

Dr. Charles Edward Blair, 54, passed away on April 3, 2009 of incurable lung cancer.

He was a talented doctor, compassionate healer, and visionary thinker, as well as an undergraduate of Amherst and Alcorn State. Dr. Blair graduated from Meharry Medical College and completed his internship, residency and first medical staffing in the U.S. Army where he rose to the rank of Major as Chief of Professional Services, 546th General Dispensary, while stationed in West Germany.

After coming to Asheville in 1990, Dr. Blair was a staff physician at the Buncombe County Medical Center and Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care. For a number of years, he served on the North Carolina Minority Health Advisory Council. The founder and medical director of the New Hope Community Health Center, Dr. Blair also served as medical director of the Three Streams Family Health Center. A pioneer working to achieve quality healthcare for all, his community service includes founding the Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement as well as cofounding Building Bridges, Rites of Passage of Asheville, and The Drum 2000. Dr. Blair was a long-time member of the BCMS.

On December 4, 2008, the WCMS Foundation Board of Directors voted to establish a grant in Dr. Blair’s name to honor and remember him for his years of service. Following Dr. Blair’s specific request prior to his death as to how this grant would be used, the Dr. Charles Blair Health Scholar Fund provides scholarships for minority youth pursuing health careers. The Western Carolina Medical Society works in partnership with MAHEC, Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement, the Blair Family and others to raise funds and provide scholarships to graduates of the Medical Minority Mentoring Program.

WCMS is honored to be a part of this lasting remembrance of Dr. Blair’s leadership in striving for health parity in Buncombe County.

If you would like to contribute to this fund, you can donate online or send a check to WCMS, 304 Summit St., Asheville, NC 28803. Please put “Dr. Blair Fund” in the memo line. For more information or to see if you qualify, contact us today.

MINORITY MEDICAL MENTORING PROGRAM (MMMP)

Pursue Your Career, Reach Your Goals

MAHEC’s MMMP creates a stepping stone to make your goals a reality.

The Minority Medical Mentoring Program (MMMP) is an internship program for high school seniors from under-represented communities in Buncombe County who are interested in pursuing a career in healthcare, including as a physician, pharmacist, dentist, physical therapist or physician assistant.

Watch the 2022 Hope Banquet and learn about the 2022 MMMP graduates.

This program is a collaborative effort of the Asheville-Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement (ABIPA), the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), Mission Health and the Western Carolina Medical Society (WCMS).

WNC COLORECTAL CANCER SCREENING INITIATIVE (CRCSI)

Vital Colorectal Cancer Screening

The WNC Colorectal Cancer Screening Initiative (WNC CRCSI) provides vital colorectal cancer screening to average risk, uninsured, low-income patients between the ages of 45 and 75 in Buncombe, Hendersonville, Madison, Mitchell and Yancey counties.

About WNC CRCSI

The program is run by Digestive Health Partners (a gastroenterologist practice in Asheville) in collaboration with local federally qualified community health centers, WCMS’s Project Access, independent primary care offices, and the American Cancer Society. The program was founded by local physician, Dr. Michael Newcomer of Digestive Health Partners, who remains the medical director of the program. Started in 2019, the WNC CRCSI is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) housed within WCMS.

The American Cancer Society states that regular colorectal cancer is largely preventable and screening is one of the most powerful tools for preventing colorectal cancer. They estimate that 40 out of 100 deaths from late stage colorectal cancer are preventable if all adults aged 45 and older were routinely screened.

How WNC CRCSI Works

Participating community health centers provide uninsured, average risk patients age 45 or older with a free fecal immunochemical test (FIT)

Patients with a positive FIT who meet the program’s criteria receive a colonoscopy with no out-of-pocket cost.

WNC CRCSI patients who are under 65 years of age, below 138% FPL and who have been residents of Buncombe or Madison counties for at least one year qualify for Project Access® and can obtain hospital- based endoscopy services, colonoscopy, anesthesia, pathology and cancer treatment services at no cost. Patients who do not qualify for Project Access® and have a positive FIT receive a colonoscopy with no out-of-pocket cost. Patients with a positive colonoscopy are then enrolled in a charity care program at one of the local hospitals to receive low-cost surgery and cancer care.

Why it Matters:

  • EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES

    Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in North Carolina but is highly treatable when detected early.

  • INCREASED SCREENING RATES

    By participating in the WNC CRCSI, Buncombe county’s largest community health center, Western North Carolina Community Health Center, has increased its colorectal cancer screening rate from 34% to 72% in four years, the highest screening rate in the state and one of the highest in the country.

  • ACCESSIBLE AND OBTAINABLE

    Services provided through programs like WNC CRCSI can have a significant impact in decreasing screening disparities and health disparities in the uninsured.

For more information or to see if you qualify, contact us for details.

If you would like to contribute to this fund, you can donate online or send a check to WCMS, 304 Summit St., Asheville, NC 28803. Please put “WNC CRCSI” in the memo line. For more information or to see if you qualify, contact us today.

AN ENDURING GIFT TO OUR COMMUNITY

Upholding the tradition of giving, compassion and caring of the physician families of Buncombe County.

About WCMS Community Health Endowment

The WCMS Community Health Endowment was started in 1998 in recognition of the tradition of giving, compassion and caring of the physician families of Buncombe County. The Endowment was originally established through a partnership between the Buncombe County Medical Society (now the Western Carolina Medical Society) and the BCMS Alliance.

As a perpetual fund, the principal of the Endowment is a permanent and enduring gift to our community. Each year, earnings from the Endowment provide essential financial support to local health-related charitable programs serving communities throughout Western North Carolina.

How it Works

As of February 2013, The Western Carolina Medical Society Foundation and the Alliance approved a grantmaking partnership with The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina for our Endowment. Endowment grant funds are allocated through CFWNC, with a specific preference for allocating Endowment funds via their Human Services (formerly People in Need) and Janirve Legacy grants programs. Endowment funds go to support health-related programs and are awarded in the counties in WCMS’ catchment area: McDowell, Rutherford, Polk, Buncombe, Henderson, Haywood, Madison, Yancey, Mitchell, Transylvania, Macon, Jackson, Swain, Graham, Clay, and/or Cherokee counties.

Past Awardees

For more information, please contact Elisa Quarles, WCMS CEO.