Aug202018

Free two-day medical clinic in 2019 hopes to serve 1,000 patients in need in Grass Valley

Posted by Kassy Perry

PCG client The California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and California CareForce began a partnership in 2011 to hold clinics throughout the state, and they’ve been building a growing group of volunteers ever since.

Organizers are again gearing up for a massive two-day free medical clinic in Grass Valley, this time set for Nov. 9 and 10 of 2019. Organized under the umbrella of the nonprofit California CareForce, the first Nevada County clinic took place in November of 2015.

Over a two-day period, more than 550 patients received medical, dental and vision services free of charge. Many traveled from as far as Sacramento, Truckee, Yuba City and Stockton for cost-free services. Organizers say they are expecting an even greater need in 2019, as the number of those lacking access to proper healthcare continues to rise.

Planning for clinics such as this one begins more than a year in advance, said Nevada County retired registered nurse Daly Merrill, who is coordinating the 2019 Grass Valley clinic.

The massive effort requires recruiting, hosting, coordinating and feeding volunteers, as well as arranging meals and accommodations for medical professionals coming from out of town. To date, several locations are being considered, including the Grass Valley Memorial Auditorium (where it was in 2015) and the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

In addition to 185 general volunteers at the last event, each day included a sizable volunteer medical staff, which current organizers hope to replicate or expand. The last event included seven medical doctors, 30 nurses, 15 dental assistants, 15 dental hygienists, two dental X-ray technicians, 11 dentists, five oral and maxillofacial surgeons, three optometrists, two EMTs and many more medical technicians. In all, donated medical services amounted to more than $246,935.

Nevada County organizers and volunteers must raise $50,000 for the 2019 event, with CareForce kicking in an additional $10,000. The first of a host of fundraising events, “An Evening of Music with Steven Holland,” will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 19 at Wild Eye Pub in Grass Valley.

There is a $20 suggested donation, with a pub dinner and drinks available for sale. For those unable to attend, a special account has been set up by United Way of Nevada County, which has become a funding partner for the 2019 clinic.

Merrill has high hopes that the upcoming clinic will be able to treat even more patients — possibly as many as 500 each day. But this will all depend on fundraising and the number of professionals willing to volunteer their time, she said.

“I’ve worked at past clinics and the hardest thing is turning people away,” said Merrill. “I remember cleaning up after one clinic and looking outside to see a long line of people waiting who weren’t going to get treated. It just seemed so sad.”

While many who come to these clinics are uninsured, a large number are “under-insured,” meaning they can’t afford to meet the large insurance deductibles that would get them the costly care they often desperately need, said Mindy Oberne, who was a key organizer in the 2015 clinic.

“With increasing healthcare costs passed on to the consumer, clinics like these are needed now more than ever,” she said. “There are also more jobs today that don’t offer insurance.”

Patients are not asked to provide any paperwork, just an emergency contact number and possibly an address if there is a need for follow-up care. No other questions will be asked.

California CareForce provides everything the volunteer medical professionals need to perform their jobs, including vision exam equipment, dental equipment, tools, medicines, exam tables and dental chairs. Free eyeglasses are made on site.

Based in Roseville, California CareForce and The California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons began a partnership in 2011 to hold clinics throughout the state, and they’ve been building a growing group of volunteers ever since.

All professionals are thoroughly vetted, and in the past, clinics have helped connect patients with local services. CareForce is a non-political, non-denominational organization with a mission to simply provide free health, dental and vision care services to inhabitants of California.

“We’re very privileged — we’re the only smaller town that has been able to host a CareForce clinic,” said Oberne. “There’s a huge overhead. If we can continue to make it easy on them — if our town can come together financially — we could do this every other year. I believe we can make this happen.”

Information on volunteering can be found at http://www.CaliforniaCareForce.org.