Coachella Valley Expedition 2014
Health is a choice, but when access to health care is a challenge, that choice can become a luxury. For some, the choice comes down to a dental filling for your child or food on the table; a pair of glasses for your spouse or paying rent; a doctor’s appointment co-pay or bus fare for the week.
The Affordable Care Act is working to change that, but experts estimate that in 2024 when the ACA is fully implemented, there will still be 31 million without insurance they can afford (for more on this see page 7).
To ease that burden and offer a bit of relief to Valley residents in need, California CareForce and Goldenvoice have established an annual 4-day free medical clinic entitled the Coachella Valley Expedition. This past April, over 500 health care professionals came together with over 700 general volunteers to provide close to 2,000 people with over $900,000 in medical, dental, vision, acupuncture, and chiropractic care.
For Goldenvoice, it is a way to give back to the local people and community that support their world-renowned festivals; for California CareForce, an extension of the California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, it is the first in many they hope to do statewide; for the over 1,200 volunteers who turned out, the work was rewarding and uplifting; and for the 1,964 patients who received services, the appreciation was apparently abundant.
Richard Cervantes of Indio heard about the clinic from a friend and came to get an aching tooth extracted. “You’ve got some very special people here who are at the top of their game, and it really benefits a lot of people, especially with dental care which is expensive.” While there, he decided to have a chiropractor look at his shoulder which has been hurting him for a while. He had x-rays taken, but his doctor was too booked to see him right away, so he thought he would get a second opinion. “This is unbelievable – truly a great service,” he adds. “Everyone is so nice and you move quickly through the lines.”
Bridgette of Desert Hot Springs brought her daughter Penelope in to get her two front teeth filled and a physical for school. Penelope, who just turned 3 couldn’t be added to her family’s dental plan until November. “I took her to the dentist a month ago to get her teeth cleaned and they told me it would cost almost $400 for the cavity to be filled,” said Bridgette, adding that this was not in the family budget. “The (CVE) dentist was great with her and both the dental and medical services were very fast. It’s pretty amazing.”
Alan is a general volunteer who commuted an hour and a half from Upland each day to take part. This is his second year, and he plans to return next year. “It’s good for your soul to be here,” he says. “I have problems, but after being here, I realize that my problems are good problems to have, and that others’ problems can be so much more. We take it all for granted sometimes.”
Volunteers come from all over the country, yet more and more local professionals are taking part as recognition for the annual clinic grows. “This is an extraordinary event to provide services for patients that don’t have access otherwise,” states local doctor Maureen Strohm, MD. “I have noticed there are some patients here with access to some services, but not others, and it is very apparent that the biggest challenge for people here in the Valley is dental services.”
Dental services provided at the clinic include general cleaning, cavity fillings, x-rays, and extractions. This section was by far the busiest with 70 stations set up. Those that were manned by dentists, hygienist, and oral surgeons continued to be busy.
In the medical section, care was given for a variety of ailments and conditions. “We are identifying high blood pressure and diabetes in patients who didn’t know they had these conditions,” adds Strohm. “We can then connect them to local services available such as Volunteers in Medicine (for those that don’t qualify for insurance) or other community partners like Borrego Health.” She indicated that they were also seeing people who had run out medications or couldn’t afford them. Limited supplies of medications were available onsite.
The Coachella Valley Expedition will return in March 2015. They hope to increase both the number of volunteers that participate and the number of patients they see.
For the incredible effort put forth, this year the City of Indio presented California CareForce and Goldenvoice with a city proclamation honoring their work and the many benefits they provide to the community.
A very special “Thank You” to JFK Memorial Hospital for sponsoring the Coachella Valley Expedition Volunteers Appreciation Dinner. Over 250 volunteers enjoyed a bounty of healthy and nourishing cuisine due to their generous contribution.
For more information on how you can get involved, please contact www.CaliforniaCareForce.org or call (916) 749.4170.
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