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Executive Director Martha Spiers asks for community support for Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine Founders Clinic, currently based in Oregon City

One of the county's best kept secrets is the Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine (CVIM) Founders Clinic in Oregon City.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine Founders Clinic is currently located at 700 Molalla Ave., Oregon City, but it will need to move to a new home soon.Open since 2012, our nonprofit clinic provides no-cost primary medical care to low-income uninsured/underinsured adults living in Clackamas Martha SpiersCounty. With 18 percent of the county's population living below 139 percent of the federal poverty level, and 23,000 living without insurance, the CVIM Founders Clinic provides a critical service to families who are working to keep a roof over their heads and food on their table.

Many CVIM patients struggle to meet their basic needs — and health care often takes a back seat. Chronic health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension can go undiagnosed for years before distressing symptoms make expensive emergency room care the only available alternative. At the CVIM Founders Clinic patients receive medical assessment, primary, preventive and chronic disease management care, as well as specialty referrals. Many are able to avoid emergency room care and continue to provide for their families.

In the words of Buffy, an uninsured single mother with previously undiagnosed skin cancer, "I feel like if I had not found the clinic I would have just given up on everything. Never once have I felt anything but supported … I have been to a lot of medical practices and the clinic is by far the best on so many levels."

Buffy's journey didn't begin or end at CVIM, but we were able to help her change the outcome of her cancer and give her a new path toward health and success.

In 2018 CVIM has treated almost 700 individual patients so far. Many show their gratitude with gifts of food from their pantries or produce from their gardens.

The clinic keeps costs low because of the volunteer model. Tuesday through Thursday retired doctors and nurses, students, interns, lab techs, Spanish-language interpreters and a small administrative staff show up to provide medical care to our neediest neighbors. The clinic also provides work experience for people re-entering the workforce through programs like Easterseals and WorkSource Oregon.

Because only uninsured and underinsured patients are eligible for services, the clinic does not have the administrative burden of seeking authorization and billing for care. Medical providers are able to spend more time with their patients and express high levels of satisfaction from the work. The clinic is abuzz with compassion, commitment and camaraderie. It is truly inspiring.

CVIM is entirely supported through small grants and generous donations from the community. The clinic is housed in a dilapidated warehouse on Molalla Avenue in Oregon City. Our generous landlords keep the rent at below market value but plan to sell in the near future.

Already working within a stressed budget, CVIM is looking for new space and new sources of funding. With enough volunteers to increase clinic hours to meet the growing need, CVIM does not have the funding to fully cover the lab work for existing patients, much less an increased patient population. In spite of generous support from the Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation, the CVIM eye clinic is scheduled through January and operates at a deficit of $1,000 per month.

Like our patients, the CVIM Founders Clinic struggles every day to keep a roof over its head and needs your help. You can help by contributing generously, and by getting the word out. If everyone in Clackamas County donated just $1 per year, CVIM would be fully funded.

The patients are at the heart of CVIM, and often walk through their doors at the end of their rope; their journeys filled with chronic illness or undiagnosed health problems that can no longer be ignored. What they find at CVIM is hope and the pathways to health that allow them to return to their families and jobs.

Please help CVIM continue critical work on behalf of working families by contributing through our website at clackamasvim.org, or by sending a tax-deductible check to The CVIM Founders Clinic at P.O. Box 2592, Oregon City OR 97045.

The CVIM Founders Clinic is located at 700 Molalla Ave. Appointment-based care can be accessed by calling 503-722-4400 during business hours. Please visit our website for details about hours, services and service eligibility. Nonprofit EIN #37-16211411.

Martha Spiers is executive director of Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine.

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