Yara and Art Banks lead busy lives, working full-time as a mortgage banker and a military contractor along with taking care of six kids. But that hasn’t stopped them from creating the only locally focused resource center and support group organization for dialysis patients in Jacksonville, Florida.
Founded in December 2014, A.T.L.A.S., or Access to Life Advocacy Services Inc., is a grassroots nonprofit seeking to provide “a better quality of life for dialysis patients and their families through health education, patient advocacy, and social interaction.”
True to its mission, A.T.L.A.S. provides kidney patients with much-needed resources, including wraparound services, social gatherings, patient support groups, training, workshops and renal diet education, among many others.
When Yara’s husband, Art, was diagnosed with kidney disease and needed a kidney transplant, the couple quickly learned that – despite facing a life-changing experience – there was no central place or group to reach out to for the answers and resources they needed. And that’s why they formed A.T.L.A.S. to serve as a central resource point for dialysis patients.
In more ways than one, A.T.L.A.S. fills a niche that no one else in the area does. Though many national groups operate in Jacksonville, Yara Banks explained the reality for new dialysis patients: “There’s nobody on the ground with the people who have to live this life.”
“Many patients have to decide between paying bills and buying groceries, medication and transportation, determining whether or not they can continue working, or signing up for disability,” she said. “There’s just nobody on a local level that can relate to this.”
Providing guidance, direction, information and support now only empowers dialysis patients. It also inspires Banks.
“The biggest thing we want to do is to empower people with kidney disease – empowering them to help make the best of life,” she said. “And that includes providing all of the information they need to help make informed treatment decisions.”
Looking to the future, A.T.L.A.S. is beginning a process to help charter new support groups – providing them with the tools and information to get started and serve new communities.
But Jacksonville still has much work to be done. With an estimated 297,000 people currently at risk for kidney disease in the city, Banks and her husband remain committed to increasing access to resources and care for all dialysis patients.
To get involved or learn more about A.T.L.A.S., please visit their website at www.atlassupport.org. And to learn more about the Chronic Disease Coalition and get involved in ongoing efforts to protect patients’ rights, click here.