Nevada – Nevada was given a much-needed gift during the 2013 legislative session when the “Volunteer Health Care Services Act” was introduced by Assemblyman Tom Grady of Yerington, with Joint Sponsorship by Senators Hardy, Goicoechea, Gustavson, Denis, Hammond, Parks and Settelmeyer.
With support from 26 additional Nevada legislators (Assemblymen Hardy, Hambrick, Hickey, Kirner; Aizley, Elliot Anderson, Paul Anderson, Bustamante Adams, Diaz, Duncan, Eisen, Ellison, Fiore, Frierson, Hansen, Healey, Horne, Kirkpatrick, Livermore, Ohrenschall, Oscarson, Pierce, Sprinkle, Stewart, Wheeler and Woodbury), and testimony from Lyon County Human Services Director Edrie Lavoie, members of the nonprofit Healthy Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey, Lyon County Commission, and pro bono work by former State Senator Ernie Adler, plus advocacy by many citizen advocates from throughout Nevada, the bill passed into law in July of 2013.
Now Nevadans from both rural and urban parts of the state have more opportunities for free medical, vision, and dental care. The new law allows background checked, licensed out -of -state health care professionals to add their volunteer help at free, short-term health care events. Before the law was changed, doctors, nurses or dentists from other states were not allowed to volunteer at temporary, free health care events in Nevada. But such events are needed because in addition to having a very high rate of uninsured residents, Nevada also lacks an adequate number of health care providers and has one of the lowest physicians to population ratios in the nation. As Assemblyman Grady explained during legislative testimony, “We need more medical practitioners to come in. There are not enough here to fill the need.”
Assemblyman Grady saw the need to change the law when he toured the 2012 Medical Outreach Response Event, a free medical, vision and dental event organized by Healthy Communities Coalition to reach rural residents of Lyon, Storey, Churchill and Mineral Counties.
Getting desperately needed basic dental and medical care can be lifechanging. One Lyon County patient who was able to get dental care at a MORE event described the positive ripple effect to legislators, saying, “In 2012, during the first MORE, I was able to see the dentist because I had been having serious problems with my teeth. I have degenerative bone disorder, so my teeth were falling out. Because of MORE, I was able to get all of my teeth extracted and get dentures. It was all because of the wonderful volunteer dentists who were there. I was only one of the lucky ones. There were many people we had to turn away because we did not have enough dentists. I was not employed at the time, but since then I have a job and full benefits. I live a healthier lifestyle now. If not for MORE, I do not know where my life would be at this time. Because of all the wonderful doctors, dentists, and nurses who have shown interest in volunteering their services here in Nevada, we can help many people put their lives back in order. This is not just something we want but something we desperately need.”
International Medical Expedition Comes to Nevada: As a result of the “Volunteer Health Care Services Act”, the organization Remote Area Medical (RAM) has put Nevada on their packed schedule of international medical expeditions. RAM will bring health care events with the ability to serve more than 600 people per day to both Northern and Southern Nevada in April 2014. They will bring 75 dental chairs and extensive medical, optical, and lab equipment. CARE Coalition in Vegas is acting as host coordinator for logistical details for the Southern Nevada RAM event on April 5 and 6th, while Healthy Communities Coalition is acting as host coordinator for logistical details for the Northern Nevada RAM event on April 11-13th, and is also serving as the sponsoring entity for both the Vegas and Reno events.
Nevada Groups and Volunteers Join the Effort: The RAM events require considerable LOCAL efforts and resources to match the generous gift of help from RAM. Dozens of Nevada groups and hundreds of volunteers are working together to welcome Remote Area Medical to Nevada.
Christy McGill, director of Healthy Communities, is happy with the steady stream of local volunteers signing up to help with RAM. “Nevada volunteers and direct service providers have exactly the can- do spirit needed. They know that we are all interconnected and we can do this with teamwork.”
MORE Continues: In addition, on May 10, 2014 Healthy Communities Coalition has organized the third annual Medical Outreach Response Event (MORE) at Silver Stage High School in rural Silver Springs, Nevada, a free event for area residents. The Coalition expects to be able to attract more health care professionals since the new law now allows recruitment of volunteer doctors, nurses and dentists from other states as well as from Nevada. Christy McGill, director of Healthy Communities, explains, “People have been asking why we’re doing this. My answer is that volunteers from all over Nevada are working at this event because every member of our rural Nevada family also deserves basic healthcare. We’re doing this because we can, because we should, because our neighbors and our families are valuable to this great state.”
When and Where will the Nevada RAM events be held in 2014? In order to reach the most people possible, RAM will offer services in Las Vegas on April 5 and 6th, then in Reno for Northern Nevadans on April 11,12, and 13th. Schools are playing a central role in making the event possible by opening Hug High to the Northern Nevada community and Bonanza High to the Southern Nevada community.
Which Services Will Be Offered at RAM? On a first come, first served basis, with no ID or registration required, RAM will offer the following free services: dental care including extractions, fillings and cleanings; eye exams and eyeglasses; general care including diabetes screenings, breast exams and prostate exams; immunizations; mental health screening and referral; etc. Patients are encouraged to bring a list of medications they are currently taking.
No Registration or ID Needed: All services are rendered on a first-come first-served basis. This event is for anyone in Northern Nevada who is uninsured or underinsured, with no eligibility requirements and no ID necessary. Patients are encouraged to arrive early, be prepared to wait and to bring snacks and drinks to last throughout the day. Patients who are unable to stand for long periods of time are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. Portable toilets will be available.
Times and Dates for 2014 RAM for Northern Nevadans:
Friday April 11: 6am-4pm
Saturday April 12: 6am-4pm
Sunday April 13: 6am-1pm
Location: Hug High School, 2880 Sutro Street, Reno, Nevada
Volunteers: All types of health care volunteers are still needed, especially dental professionals of all types. To volunteer, contact http://www.ramusa.org and click on the volunteer tab.