Free two-day health clinic in Grass Valley in 2020 hopes to serve more than 1,000 patients in need
To make a donation to the cost-free medical clinic set for January of 2020, checks can be made out to United Way of Nevada County, with “Grass Valley free health care clinic” written on the bottom of the check. The address is United Way of Nevada County, P.O. Box 2733, Grass Valley, CA, 95945. Donations can also be made online via credit card or PayPal at http://www.uwnc.org, or by calling the United Way at 530-274-8111.
Two new key partners have signed on to aid in the overseeing of the second massive two-day free medical clinic in Grass Valley, this time set for Jan. 11 and 12 of 2020.
Organized in conjunction with the Roseville-based nonprofit California CareForce, United Way of Nevada County has agreed to host the event, which will take place at the Nevada County Fairgrounds for the first time.
“While California CareForce has a stellar reputation, the United Way of Nevada County gives us credibility because they’re well known locally,” said Mindy Oberne, who was a key organizer of the first free clinic in Grass Valley. “Additionally, the fairgrounds will give us a lot more space and ample free parking. Those two key developments will greatly improve the next event.”
The first Nevada County clinic took place in November 2015 at the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building. Over the 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 2020, as the number of those lacking access to proper healthcare continues to rise. In addition, organizers hope to ramp up fundraising, outreach efforts and recruitment of medical staff with the goal of doubling the number of patients treated. Ideally, the event would include 33 volunteer dentists per day, due to the high demand for dental care in the past.
“That’s one of our areas of concern right now,” said Megan Timpany, United Way’s executive director. “We want to make sure we have enough dentists coming out to volunteer on a weekend. We also will need more professional eye doctors.”
In addition to 185 general volunteers who helped out at the 2015 event, each day included a sizable volunteer medical staff, including 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. Organizers of the 2020 event hope to exceed that.
Nevada County must raise $60,000 for the 2020 event, with CareForce kicking in additional donated funds. That’s why planning for clinics such as this one begins more than a year in advance, said Timpany. The massive undertaking requires recruiting, hosting, coordinating and feeding volunteers, as well as arranging meals and accommodations for medical professionals coming from out of town.
“CareForce provides all the equipment volunteer medical professionals need to perform their jobs, so they don’t need to bring anything — they just need to have a current license and liability insurance,” said Oberne. “Even retired medical professionals can be a tremendous help — they can do triage.”
California CareForce brings vision exam equipment, dental equipment, tools, medicines, exam tables, dental chairs and more. Free eyeglasses are made on site.
The United Way of Nevada County is currently compiling a list of those interested in volunteering. Additionally, all donations will now go through the nonprofit. Donors can mail checks directly to United Way, donate online via their website or call and use a credit card over the phone (see information box).
While many who come to these clinics are uninsured, a large number are also “under-insured,” meaning they can’t afford to meet the large insurance deductibles that would get them the costly care they often need, said Timpany. With increasing healthcare costs passed on to the consumer, clinics like these are needed now more than ever, and many employers no longer offer any health insurance at all. Former volunteers say the hardest part about the 2015 event was having to turn people away who desperately needed care. This is why organizers are ramping up their efforts.
“We’re so pleased that United Way could be a part of this — it really fits with our mission,” said Timpany. “We have been focusing on families that are struggling to get by. But this event isn’t just about lower income people — this is open to everybody. There are many people who live, rent and work here who are forced to put health care on the back burner.”
California CareForce and The California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons began a partnership in 2011 to hold free 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.
Currently, CareForce only hosts two other free medical clinic events per year — one in Sacramento and the second in Indio. Grass Valley is the only CareForce event organized in a small town, said Oberne.
“We should feel honored and privileged,” she said. “If we can raise the whole $60,000, I’m sure CareForce would help us host more of these events. No question about it — there’s a desperate need for events like this.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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Nevada County got some good news on Wednesday.