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Opening nears for $125K free health clinic in Auburn

Auburn church seeks more volunteers to help uninsured, underinsured
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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Call for volunteers

The Auburn Renewal Center free health clinic for uninsured and underinsured people is seeking volunteers.

“We’re looking for doctors, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, ophthalmologists and mental health workers – anybody who would fit into any of the programs we’ll be offering,” said Steve Holm, coordinator of the project at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Auburn.

Those interested can email Holm at

or call the church and leave a message at (530) 885-4232.

After two years, more than $125,000 in contributions and thousands of volunteer hours, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Auburn is on the verge of opening a free health clinic for people in need.

And whatever has been needed to get the clinic ready to serve uninsured and underinsured people, Project Coordinator Steve Holm said the call for help was always answered.

Even when money dried up a month ago and the project came to a standstill, the community came through.  With about $20,200 worth of work left to be done without the money to cover it, two anonymous checks came in – one for $20,000, another for $1,000, Holm said.

Now, he’s hoping that with it built, they will come. Not only the uninsured and underinsured people it will serve, but the people who will serve it: the doctors, optometrists, psychiatrists, dentists and more.

There are still some organizational aspects to be worked out before the clinic opens, but Holm is making a call for volunteers so as to maximize the services able to be provided out of the facility, which has all the look and feel of a doctor’s office.

“We have a nice start on the volunteer list, but the amount of time we’re going to be open is going to be determined by the size of the volunteer pool,” he said. “It’s very important that our volunteers aren’t burned out on too quick a fashion, and they’re able to come in on their own time frame.”

All that is left is to iron out a set of policies and procedures, liability coverage and add to the volunteer base, Holm said. The goal is for it to be open two days a week, offering basic medical, dental, optical and mental services.

“Our ultimate goal is to have a mental health clinic with … medication management for our homeless clientele that are on psychiatric drugs,” Holm said. “One of the biggest problems in the Auburn area is they only get to see a county person now every 11 or 12 weeks, and typically that’s insufficient for people to personally manage their medicine, because they’re putting their money in their pocket and it’s not being used on their medicine.”

The clinic, dubbed the Auburn Renewal Center, continues the church’s ongoing efforts to address the needs of at-risk people, including the homeless community.

The church’s community service program includes a garden that produced 19,000 pounds last year, a food bank, a clothing closet and showers every Tuesday. People who volunteer can join in for a lunch that day, as well.

The church also hosts a Saturday morning community breakfast, open to anyone who needs it, Holm said.

Need for health services for the homeless has grown “immensely” beyond what is available through public services, so it’s encouraging to see churches stepping up and taking responsibility, said Suzi deFosset, executive director of the Gathering Inn, which provides temporary shelter and services to Placer County’s homeless.

“I think it’s fabulous. I’m really excited that the Auburn homeless are getting some support, and the Seventh-day Adventists have always been great proponents of taking care of the homeless,” deFosset said.

The county recognized their work with the homeless and approached the church group about two years ago to see if they could implement some sort of health clinic, Holm said.

It started with a phone call from a church in Rocklin that had some old modular units it wanted to donate.

“We decided we were going to take a giant leap of faith,” Holm said. “So we brought these buildings up, and over the last two years we’ve kind of come up with a game plan.”

Every step of the way, when they needed something, someone provided it to them: From a local professional painter to a sheet metal company, he said. A dental supply company is even donating a panoramic X-ray machine, he added.

The optical clinic will be available to diagnose eye problems and a local group is providing finished eye wear, Holm said. There are three dental suites where dentists will perform cavity filling and extraction and, on the medical side, there are three exam rooms.

“I think it’s going to be kind of a triage-type approach of medicine in the beginning to check people’s basic health and find out if they need to walk across the street over to the hospital,” Holm said. Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital is located on the opposite side of Highway 49, about a half mile from the ARC, located at the church on Rock Creek Road.

“We have had a dialogue with the hospital so if we get to the point with one of our clients that they need help outside the parameters of what we offer, we will be able to send them right over for help,” he said.

At last check, Holm said the clinic has nine dentists and eight doctors signed up as volunteers, as well as a group of nurses and dental assistants.

Optometrist Dennis Hansen owns the Sierra Optometry Center in Auburn and plans to volunteer at the clinic. Hansen said he spent 11 years overseas working at clinics in Guam, Saipan and Palau, and he has seen the difference good eye care can have on people who need it.

“I’ve always felt that an extension of health is good vision,” he said. “If they can get a job, to be able to hold down a job requires a level of good vision. We are hoping to take people who are marginalized and not only enhance their health, but allow them to perform at a greater level of efficiency.”

Auburn resident Dr. Chris Stokes practices internal medicine at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center, and he also has pledged to volunteer his services, something that will be a new experience for him.

“It gives me a very raw dispensing of medicine, which is something that can easily be lost when you dispense medical care for a fee for service and HMO systems,” said Stokes, who plans to volunteer at the ARC four to six hours a month. “Someone like myself, being a religious type person, it is important for me to be able to give people something they couldn’t otherwise get anywhere else.”

Holm is hoping to find more people like Hansen and Stokes to donate their time.

He acknowledges unchartered waters lie ahead, but he’s looking forward to seeing the project through.

“I think we don’t even have a clue what God has laid out for us here,” Holm said. “It is going to be amazing.”  

 

Jon Schultz can be reached at jons@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews