On April 3-6 the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio will be transformed into a temporary mash unit providing much needed medical care for members of our community. Over the four-day event, dubbed the Coachella Valley Expedition, more than 500 health care professionals, along with 700 supporting individuals, will volunteer their time to provide medical, dental, vision and other services to those in need.
California CareForce, the group formerly known as RAM-CA (the California affiliate of Remote Area Medical), will return for the second year to produce their first free health clinic under their new name. “As RAM-CA, we were only able to do one clinic a year, and we wanted to do more,” said President Pam Congdon who with the California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (of which she is Executive Director) got involved as a way to give back to the community. “RAM USA owned all the equipment, which limited our reach. Now with our own equipment, we are able to offer 5 – 10 clinics throughout the state each year.”
In the two days before opening (when some patients begin to line up), CareForce’s hard-working board of directors and volunteers will set up 70 dental stations (divided among surgical, restorative and hygiene), 20 medical exam rooms, and 10 vision lanes providing prescription glasses and exams. Additional services for the expected 3,000 + patients will include acupuncture, massage, chiropractic and naturopathic services as available by volunteering professionals.
Congdon says that 80% of the people coming through the doors are there for dental. While some may have medical insurance, they may not have dental or vision which is still not covered under the ACA. Congdon adds that complementary services are offered within the medical section which is set up each day based on the professional volunteers who show up that morning.
Naturopathic doctor, Shannon Sinsheimer will return this year as she found the experience exceptionally rewarding. “Our primary role was helping grief, trauma, and body pain, and I personally worked with individuals who had been denied dental care due to high blood pressure readings.” Through homeopathy and breathing techniques, she was able to lower readings resulting in a green light to proceed with dental care.
“I was speechless when I saw the magnitude of the operation,” said Sinsheimer. “The organization operates with exceptional efficiency and professionalism.” She observed patients in tears as they put on glasses and saw clearly for the first time, and those in severe pain whom she helped graduate to the dental chair after first being denied care. “It was wonderful to see conventional and alternative practitioners working together as a team, combining the best of what we both have to offer, to provide health care that significantly improved lives.”
“We still have a significant need for dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants, as well as, ophthalmologists, medical doctors and non-professional volunteers,” says Congdon. “We encourage doctors to bring their entire staff!” She notes that of the 7 health clinics they have done, they find the Coachella Valley to be incredibly generous in the way everyone comes together to provide assistance. “It has been really great to work with your community, and we continue to be impressed.”
Out of state doctors and dentists are now able to volunteer as well, thanks to a 2012 regulation stating that medical practitioners with valid, current, and active licenses may participate in sponsored free health care events in California. Additional information is available on the California CareForce website.
“All of this is made possible by the dedicated volunteers who donate their time and resources to these clinics, and to whom we are extremely grateful,” says Congdon. Major financial supporters include Goldenvoice, The Moss Foundation, Herb Alpert Foundation, Lu Foundation, Billy and Audrey L. Wilder Foundation, and the Chartwell Charitable Foundation. “With their generous contributions, we have been able to purchase the equipment we need to provide quality dental, medical and vision care in Coachella and throughout the state.”
“To donate my skill set and see someone walk away free of ailments or disease that intrudes their daily life, capacity to work, or ability to attend to their family, is beyond heartwarming,” says Sinsheimer. “This event reminds me why I continue to be called to medicine as my work and my passion.”
Please consider volunteering at the Coachella Valley Expedition and visit www.CaliforniaCareForce.org to register. If you have volunteered with RAM-CA in the past, your user profile is still active on this site.