Las Vegas Sun

April 21, 2014

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health care:

Free clinic’s success leads to plan for sister site

Proposed clinic location

Buoyed by demand for its inaugural health clinic at a county park, an organization that provides free medical care to uninsured patients is poised to open a larger clinic in downtown Las Vegas, where it can add mental health and dental work to its services.

Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada is proposing to build a 12,000-square-foot facility on 1.36 vacant acres near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Madison Avenue in Las Vegas. The property is in escrow, and if the Las Vegas City Council approves a zone change in its Wednesday meeting, the sale will finalize June 2.

The clinic would handle up to 30,000 patient visits a year in Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow’s district. He said he doesn’t expect any problems with the zoning change because the site was previously commercial. Plus, there’s a tremendous need in the area, Barlow said.

“There are a lot of youth and seniors who have gone for years without appropriate medical care,” Barlow said. “Having a venue such as Volunteers in Medicine coming into my district will fill the void.”

Volunteers in Medicine likely will not face the same opposition found in Paradise Park, near Tropicana Avenue and McLeod Drive, where it established its first clinic in January. The city notified 22 neighborhood associations about the proposed clinic, and mailed 216 notices to neighbors, and only two people protested the clinic.

In contrast, neighbors protested the clinic at Paradise Park, complaining to the Clark County Commission that it was an inappropriate setting. The clinic’s operating hours and patient visits are limited to accommodate the neighbors, and the clinic is booked months in advance.

Dr. Florence Jameson, founder of Volunteers in Medicine, said the purchase of the downtown property is one of the latest examples of community engagement with the organization. An anonymous donor is paying the $409,000 for the property, she said.

Opening the Paradise Park clinic “confirms everything expected and more” about the state of uninsured Las Vegas residents, Jameson said.

“The people in our city are struggling and suffering to an incredible degree from untreated medical illnesses,” she said.

Most of the patients are young people or adults between ages 45 and 55 who have lost their jobs but are too young for Medicare, the government’s insurance for people over age 65. They have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and employers are passing them by for younger workers, Jameson said.

“It’s like nobody loves them,” she said. “They’re in a severe depression.”

About 450 volunteer doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and clerks staff the Paradise Park clinic. Major medical colleges in Southern Nevada have affiliation agreements with the clinic, so students can be involved. The operating budget is funded for the next 18 months.

The new downtown clinic will now be a fundraising focus, Jameson said. The clinic will have space for medical, mental health, dental and vision care.

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