By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer
A church group that’s operated a free clinic in Seattle plans to send a mobile medical van to treat patients in the Skykomish Valley beginning in the fall.
The goal during its first year is to provide free medical care to as many as 1,200 patients who are uninsured and can’t get regular medical care. The van will initially go to Monroe and Sultan in October, with plans to expand service to Snohomish by year’s end.
“There’s a big need out here,” said Dr. Mark Raney, a Sultan physician. Patients who lost health insurance benefits due to the economy are delaying getting medical care, he said.
“We’re seeing people who are a little sicker,” he said. “We’re seeing people who come in and take care of multiple things in one visit.”
The medical van program is an outgrowth of the Haller Lake Christian Health Clinic, recently renamed as the Puget Sound Christian Clinic. It has operated a free clinic in north Seattle for more than six years.
A corps of medical volunteers, with donated services from medical organizations, has provided care to more than 4,000 patients since it opened in Seattle in 2003.
Last year, it treated 1,200 patients, some from as distant as Renton and Federal Way, said Diane Steward, the clinic’s executive director.
The group has talked of expanding into Snohomish County for several years. Mobile Medical Ministries International, based in Tulsa, Okla., recently provided a $100,000 grant to purchase a van, allowing the group to launch plans for offering free medical care in Snohomish County, Steward said.
“We just bought it last week,” she said. “It was big.”
The group will offer basic medical care with an emphasis on patients who have chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure, she said.
“We’ll really encourage people who don’t have access to medical care to make the mobile clinic their home,” she said.
The group is talking to area churches, seeking volunteers and donations to provide the service, she said.
Morning Star Lutheran Church is one of five Monroe churches supporting the project. It’s pledging $200 a month, said Kathleen Sallee, who is helping lead the effort at her church.
“What we need is for other groups in Monroe and up the Skykomish Valley to also pledge financial support,” she said.
The group needs to raise about $200,000 to upgrade and operate the van, buy computers and electronic medical record equipment and increase the hours of four part-time clinic employees to full time employment, Steward said.
Medical volunteers are needed in each of the three east Snohomish County communities the van will visit, Steward said.
Costs for providing a half day of services is about $1,300, said Justin Kawabori, a consultant who is working with community groups on the project. How quickly the group can expand into Snohomish and provide a full day of appointments to patients in all three communities depends on how much money can be raised, he said.
The van will be the second free medical service offered in the area. In June 2009, volunteers opened Safe Harbor Free Clinic in Stanwood. There are 30 free clinics now operating in Washington.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; email@example.com.
How to help
Donations may be sent to North Seattle Alliance Church at 2150 N. 122nd St., Seattle, WA 98133. Add a notation that it’s for the mobile medical van. For more information on the mobile medical van project in Snohomish County, call 206-363-4105, ext 118.