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Health care has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds lately due to the Affordable Care Act. It’s on my mind for the same reason it has been for years: I can’t afford it. My husband and I make too much to be covered by public health insurance programs and barely – just barely – too much to take advantage of suburban Cook County’s Access to Care program (http://www.accesstocare.org). However, good insurance coverage is also out of our reach, and even though we are both healthy individuals, medical expenses are hard to budget for.

Given the state of the economy, I’m sure I’m not alone. Perhaps, like my husband, you work for a small business, and the insurance you’re offered is too expensive for your family to afford. Perhaps, like me, you’re working part-time jobs and/or are self-employed, and insurance isn’t available. I was able to join an insurance plan through a writing organization that I’m a member of, but it’s still rather pricey and it has big co-pays and deductibles. It also does not include dental or mental health care, both of which became a huge issue this month.

I got a crown earlier this year and borrowed money to pay for it. At the beginning of July, I went back to the dentist and was told I needed nearly four grand more in work. I started crying in the dentist’s chair. It was awkward for everyone. This was also the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I’m stressed, I’m stretched thin, and it’s making me very unhappy. Again, I’m sure I’m not alone here. Having struggled with depression as a teen, I knew the signs, how important it is to seek help, and that I shouldn’t feel ashamed to ask for it. However, it still took me a long time to do so because I knew that, given my insurance situation, finding an affordable therapist would be a lot of work.

I wish I could say that I found a great resource to share with my fellow Forest Parkers, but the one place I found that looked promising, an organization called Thrive, only offered sliding-scale services to residents of Oak Park and River Forest. Once again, my husband and I made just slightly too much money to qualify for the programs that I looked at through the Proviso Township website (www.ptmhc.org). I do, though, urge those of you who are struggling with health care expenses to look at the resources that Proviso Township provides. I may not have been able to find what I needed, but perhaps you will.

While the Affordable Care Act has opened a national dialogue about health care, I’m cynical about it because the focus is on politics rather than basic human needs. Over the course of the past month, I’ve learned that the key is to talk about your needs with people in your own community because unlike the politicians, they actually care and relate to what you’re going through. It’s scary and humbling to admit that you can’t afford the treatment you need, but a friend of mine at the Beacon helped me find a dental discount plan and my editor at the Review pointed me to a website with therapist profiles that specify if they offer sliding-scale services (www.networktherapy.com/IL/Forest-Park-Therapists/).

When I told my hairdresser at Bertuca Salon of my woes, she handed me a free discount prescription card for a new program Proviso Township is offering through Coast2CoastRx.

There may be a gap between what is out there and what our community needs, but together we can find ways to bridge it.