Free clinic has new home; adds hours

  • Wed Jun 25th, 2014 5:40pm
  • News

By Kari Bray Herald Writer

STANWOOD ­— The Safe Harbor Free Clinic plans to move to a new location and double its days of operation by mid-August.

The clinic, which celebrated its fifth anniversary June 19, provides free healthcare for people in Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties.

Safe Harbor currently leases space from the Skagit Regional Clinic at 9631 269th St. NW. Volunteers set up and tear down equipment for weekly clinics, executive director Julie Vess said.

The clinic is moving to its own space at 7209 265th St. NW Suite 203, where equipment can remain in place and more services can be offered, Vess said.

The clinic’s office staff relocated in February. Medical equipment is scheduled to follow once the space is remodeled.

A $10,000 grant from the Charis Fund covers most of the remodel, which is projected to cost about $15,000, Vess said. The clinic is taking donations for the remaining $5,000.

Safe Harbor plans to add two more days of service each week. The clinic is open from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Fridays and every other Saturday. Once the renovation and relocation is complete, it is set to be open from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

“I don’t think I really knew what it would become,” Safe Harbor founder Jimmy Grierson said. “I was hoping that after five years we’d be fairly well established, and I think we’re on the right path for that.”

Safe Harbor provides chronic care, women’s clinics, podiatry, acute care and periodic dental clinics, Vess said. The most common diagnoses are diabetes, high blood pressure and sinus infections.

Clinic volunteers also see a number of undiagnosed cancers, asthma and heart disease, Grierson said. They try to provide appropriate tests and medications for patients with chronic problems, but are limited due to the clinic’s lack of specialty care and imaging equipment.

“There are frustrations,” Grierson said. “You always wish you could do a little bit more with people.”

Private grants and donations fund the clinic, Vess said. About 25 medical professionals and 200 other people volunteer at Safe Harbor. The clinic has four paid employees: Vess, who works full time, and a part-time development director, clinic manager and dental coordinator.

It costs about $75 per patient visit to keep the clinic running, Vess said. Volunteers saw about 2,100 patients in 2013.

“It’s kind of like hauling a bucket around,” Grierson said. “When you plug up some holes, water still leaks out as you go along because there are so many other little holes. There are a lot of people who need care.”

Most patients are uninsured, Vess said, but a number have insurance and can’t afford the deductibles.

Safe Harbor volunteers advocate at the state and national level for free clinics, Grierson said.

“I really hope this clinic can be a model,” he said. “If we can do this in Stanwood, Washington, there’s no reason you can’t do this anywhere in the country.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439, kbray@heraldnet.com