ST. GEORGE – Hope may not be something individuals lacking insurance may feel in great abundance when forced to choose between paying for life’s necessities and seeking potentially pricey medical care. The situation could seem hopeless, and yet, thanks to a facility staffed by volunteers and supported by the community, that doesn’t have to be the case.
The Doctors’ Volunteer Clinic in St. George provides medical, dental and mental health care for those who may not be able to afford it otherwise and as a result may offer patients a precious commodity in return – hope.
The “Spirit of Hope” was the theme of the Doctors’ Volunteer Clinic’s third annual fundraiser at the Dixie Center St. George Saturday evening.
“Every year we host this event to thank our donors and also to raise money because we are a free health care clinic that operates solely on donations and grants,” said Deanne Staheli, clinic director. “We receive no federal funding.”
Overall, an estimated 96 percent of all funding goes directly to patient care, clinic Operations Manager Melissa Lewis previously told St. George News. Last year’s gala also raised $30,000, she said.
The Doctors’ Volunteer Clinic had been in operation since 1999 and offered services out of the Dixie Care and Share, a former resource facility for people homeless or in need. Demands for the doctors’ services expanded to the point that a new building for the clinic was built on Riverside Drive and eventually underwent an expansion in 2011.
Individual patient visits run $29, Staheli said, and patients are asked to donate around $10 or so back to the clinic if they are able, and many do. Up to 20 percent of the clinic’s annual budget comes from patient donations.
The clinic saw nearly 12,000 patients during 2015 and it was one of the clinic’s highest years, Staheli said.
One area that has increased over the last five years is mental health care. Care in this area has grown from 15 percent of the clinic’s patient population to 40 percent last year.
Currently, 17 physicians, both practicing and retired, volunteer their time and services at the clinic. Volunteers in the dental and mental health fields do as well, as do some clerical staff. The clinic itself has a small core of staff members who are paid and help coordinate the facility’s efforts and volunteers.
According to a video presentation shown at the gala, volunteers supply an estimated 12,000 hours of service annually. Around 4,000 of hours come from students attending Dixie State University.
“It’s all doable because of the volunteers we have in the community,” Staheli said.
The clinic also has a partnership with nearby Dixie Regional Medical Center that allows them to get discounted lab work done for patients. Various dentists’ offices in the community will also take some of the clinic’s dental cases.
“It’s just a fantastic service,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said. Pike previously sat on the clinic’s board of directors and said he has enjoyed seeing the facility’s growth in services and volunteers.
“The Doctors’ Volunteer Clinic is the most important not-for-profit organization we have because it takes care of so many needs for so many people who may be the working poor,” Pike said. “Most of them are working, as the studies have shown.”
Dr. Paul Doxey, chairman of the clinic’s board of directors, said that it’s not only the uninsured the clinic aids but also those who may be underinsured or unable to qualify for Medicaid or welfare due to making too much money at their jobs.
While addressing gala attendees, Pike said the Doctors’ Volunteer Clinic is an example of what he has heard called “the Dixie Spirit” or a kind of barn-raising mentality. It is a spirit of cooperation, he said.
“Anything important, really important, such as health and wellness, we’re able to do here because of the partnerships,” Pike said. “Public-private, individual, corporations – whatever it might be – this is a shining example of that.”
The mayor continued: “It is service with heart … It is love and service and hope.”
The entertainment for the evening was headlined by well known performer and local favorite Brodie Perry. He was joined by Mikalene Ipson and John Houston’s Gospel Choir.
A silent auction for various items and services was also held during the gala.
Acting as the master of ceremonies during the gala was Dr. Martin Nygaard who shared a few words about hope.
“Hope, along with its companion virtues of faith and charity, is considered to be a theological virtue, meaning it is only fully available through God’s grace,” Nygaard said. “As humans, we can give it to our fellows in small acts of kindness and generosity.”
A sense of hope and gratitude was shared by various individuals who had benefited from the clinic through the video presentation. Among those shown on the video was a mother who thanked the clinic for helping her son and a man who received counseling through the clinic’s mental health services.
The man was in a state of severe depression when he came to the clinic, he said, and thanked the counselors there for helping him get through that difficult time.
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