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.
As a result, today Nevadans from both rural and urban parts of the state have more opportunities for free medical, vision, and dental care. The 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. For example, Lyon County, with a population of about 53,000, has only 12 physicians. As Assemblyman Grady explained during legislative testimony, “We need more medical practitioners to come in. There are not enough here to fill the need.”
MORE: Assemblyman Grady saw the need to change the law when he toured the 2012 Medical Outreach Response Event (MORE), 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.”
Since 2012, Healthy Communities Coalition has organized the annual Medical Outreach Response Events (MORE) at Silver Stage High School in rural Silver Springs, Nevada, a free event that has reached residents of not only Lyon, but of Mineral, Churchill, Douglas, Storey and beyond. The Coalition has been able to attract more health care professionals since the Volunteer Health Care Service Act passed because it allows recruitment of volunteer doctors, nurses and dentists from other states as well as from Nevada. During the first MORE event in 2012, HCC director of Healthy Communities, Christy McGill, said, “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.”
International Medical Expedition Comes to Nevada: As a result of the “Volunteer Health Care Services Act”, the organization Remote Area Medical (RAM) added Nevada to their packed schedule of international medical expeditions. Each year after the Volunteer Health Care Services Act passed, RAM has brought pop-up clinics with the ability to serve more than 600 people per day to both Northern and Southern Nevada. They can provide 75 dental chairs and extensive medical, optical, and lab equipment.
Which Services Are Offered at RAM? On a first come, first served basis, with no ID or registration required, RAM is able to offer free dental care including extractions, fillings and cleanings; eye exams and eyeglasses; general care including diabetes screenings, breast exams and prostate exams; immunizations; etc. CARE Coalition in Vegas acted as host coordinator for logistical details for the first Southern Nevada RAM event, while Healthy Communities Coalition acted as host coordinator for logistical details for the Northern Nevada RAM events for several years, and also served as the required legal sponsoring entity RAM events in the state through 2016.
In 2017, RAM will come to Nevada, this time to Pahrump (host coordinator Nye Communities Coalition) and Reno ( with Washoe County Health District as local coordinator). See ramusa.org for clinic schedules.
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 work together to welcome Remote Area Medical to Nevada.
Christy McGill, former director of Healthy Communities, commented on the stream of Nevada volunteers signing up to help with RAM, noting, “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.”