Nevada – During spring of 2014, the internationally known organization Remote Area Medical (RAM) served not only Nevadans from the cities of Reno and Las Vegas, but also rural residents who came by the van loads from communities like Minden, Silver Springs, Dayton, Carson City, etc.
The two events (in Reno and Vegas) brought free health care services to 1,712 people in both southern and northern Nevada during 5 days in April, 2014. It was the first time out-of-state medical professionals had been allowed to add their help to temporary free charity events in Nevada, and it was made possible by the “Volunteer Health Services Act” introduced by Assemblyman Tom Grady in 2013.
Healthy Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey’s director Christy McGill was quoted extensively in a feature in Remote Area Medical’s Fall 2014 magazine (page 11 and 12).
The RAM article explains, “Before the new legislation passed into law, doctors from states other than Nevada could not legally add their volunteer help to such free events within Nevada state lines. Why does this matter? Because Nevada has one of the lowest physician to resident ratios in the United States. Add that to the high rate of uninsured residents, and it’s easy to see how the Volunteer Health Care Services Act positively impacts those in need of care.”
Healthy Communities Coalition, a nonprofit regional collaboration in rural Northern Nevada composed of hundreds of community volunteers and dozens of local, state, federal and tribal group partners, became a tireless advocate for changing the law to allow out-of-state medical professionals a pass to provide humanitarian relief in Nevada. After several years of advocacy, during which HCC hosted smaller free clinics of their own known as “MORE” that were limited to using Nevada health care professionals, the Coalition finally got a chance to invite RAM to the state when the “Volunteer Health Care Services Act” passed in 2013.
The RAM article states that with help from dozens of Nevada organizations and hundreds of volunteers, Healthy Communities Coalition “provided much needed support for RAM operations” as the sponsoring legal entity in Reno and Vegas, and as the organizing host in Reno.
After the 2014 RAM events, Christy McGill wrote, “As hosts, we thought we were prepared, but really how can one be prepared for the crowds of people begging, praying to be seen. Yes we had to turn many away, before they even got in. Yes, there were elders, children, hardworking people, characters…Then once inside, nothing could prepare us for the tearful utter relief and thankfulness. You think this would cause us great joy and satisfaction but all of us were overwhelmed and humbled because the people thanking us absolutely should not have been in these circumstances. The stories were endless. Here is just one: A 56-year old man, finally after 12 hours of waiting, took his turn in a mobile dental chair set up on the floor of a high school gym. Trying to ease his nerves, I asked him what he did for a living. He told me he was retired Army. When I thanked him, he quickly noted that he was not a hero, but instead a simple man proud to work in the kitchens and in the support roles over his life of service. He rapidly turned the tables and grasped my hand and whispered through his tears that he had been praying that someone could help him with his teeth for they had been causing him pain for years. I grabbed one of the amazing volunteer dentist and relayed the story. The dentist really was only supposed to do one or two procedures, but I knew from the look in his eye, this man’s needs would be met. Afterward, mouth filled with gauze, the gentlemen found me to thank me again and was so overwhelmed by relief and emotion that he could not speak – neither could I. At that moment we were the same, I imagined we both felt like we were made of kindling; like everyone else in that room–little pieces of us breaking throughout that gym.”
RAM in Yerington, Carson and Vegas in 2015: RAM returns to Nevada in October of 2015, and will set up free temporary clinics in Yerington, Carson City and Las Vegas.