by Kathy Marson
YAKIMA, Wash., March 7, 2016 - The Yakima State Fair Park was busy the weekend of March 5 and 6 with an event called “Impact Your Health” organized by local Adventist churches in Yakima. About 440 people received free dental, medical and vision care. The local church partnered with a national organization called Adventist Medical Evangelism Network, or AMEN, which provided all the dental chairs and tools, along with basic medical equipment, vision screening tools and free glasses.
People were invited to come free of charge to receive either dental or vision care, and medical appointments were open to all. There were 10 doctors and 15 dentists available along with several therapeutic massage therapists and vision specialists. These and a host of volunteers set up shop for two days in the Modern Living building at the fairgrounds.
Open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, people seeking care lined up outside the building as early as 4:30 a.m. Pastor Harry Sharley said, “Some of them, we had to turn away because we knew we wouldn’t be able to fit them in.” Sharley, pastor of the Yakima Adventist Church, began organizing the event about five months earlier.
Pastor Sharley said that 260 patients were seen on Sunday and by about 1 p.m. Monday, another 180 had come through. “The majority, 245 people, were specifically seeking dental care,” said Vinh Trinh, the AMEN clinic director. “Dental is always the biggest, the most desired,” Trinh said. “After that would be vision, then medical.” There were about 110 people who received vision care during the two days. Trinh said, “AMEN allows patients to pick out their glasses frames at the appointment, then ships them out at no cost after the lenses are cut and fitted.” AMEN is able to procure glasses cheaply through a company in Texas.
Along with many volunteers from the local churches, the Yakima Health District also had volunteers at the event to provide free HIV testing. The churches provided follow-up lifestyle counseling, nutrition advice and blood pressure management. “Church volunteers also offered to pray with patients,” Pastor Sharley said.
Dr. Robert Spady, an internist from Moscow, Idaho, provided services to many of the patients with diabetes and hypertension, chronic conditions that can’t be fixed with just one appointment. Spady found the free clinic offered an interesting model for delivering health care. “The problem with our health care delivery system – I think we do a good job as doctors when the person comes in, but when they go, we have no idea what’s happening to them,” he said. “It’s hard to ensure follow-up appointments at different clinics or confirm referrals over the course of several weeks.” However at events such as “Impact Your Health,” you can just walk to a different booth to consult with other specialists or get the patient checked out. Sometimes the patient had to wait for a few hours but that was less time consuming than waiting a month to see a cardiologist. Spady said, “The delivery part was chaotic, but more functional.”
Will they do this again? Sharley said, “We are seriously considering doing it again.” He was pleased with how the event turned out.
AMEN offers to come alongside of churches wanting to hold events such as this. They call it the “Clinic-in-a-Box.” AMEN is an independent ministry supportive of the SDA Church but it is not affiliated with or endorsed by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Their goal is to team up with pastors, members, physicians, and dentists, uniting with the church to restore Christ’s ministry of healing to the world, hastening His return. Watch a short video of the clinic: uccsda.org/yakimaclinic.