For the first time since it was established more than 13 years ago, Volunteers in Medicine Jacksonville is planning what organizers hope will become a signature event to raise the public’s awareness of the Downtown full-service medical clinic.
The inaugural “Women with Heart” luncheon presented by Florida Blue is Feb. 8 at the Florida Blue conference center in Deerwood.
“We think Volunteers in Medicine is one of the best-kept secrets in Northeast Florida. We need to engage people and share our mission,” said Cindy Stoddart Cooper, director of partnerships and community engagement.
The inaugural Dorion-Burt Heart Award, named after the clinic’s co-founders Dottie Dorion and Dr. Jim Burt, will be presented to philanthropist Delores Barr Weaver.
Cooper said Weaver in the past year awarded two $100,000 challenge grants to the nonprofit that provides free medical treatment for people who have jobs, but no health insurance, and make too much money to qualify for government-subsidized health care.
“The working uninsured is one of our most vulnerable populations. What we provide is not an entitlement. It’s not a handout, it’s a hand up,” said Cooper.
The clinic at 41 E. Duval St. is funded by grants and corporate and individual contributions. It receives no federal support.
Patients are seen by appointment five days a week including Saturdays and must meet employment and income requirements.
In the past year, more than 230 medical and non-clinical health care professionals volunteered their time and skills to provide more than $1.2 million in free treatment.
That includes physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, dentists, dental hygienists, licensed mental health counselors, social workers and pharmacists.
The Weaver grants allowed the organization to treat more patients and contribute to sustainability, Cooper said.
But there still is work to be done.
“We hope the luncheon will help us recruit more patients and make employers who can’t provide health insurance aware of our services. Our goal is to keep people healthy and employed and we can fill a critical void,” Cooper said.
The need for what Volunteers in Medicine provides is steadily growing.
The patient base has increased by 10 percent each month for the past 12 months.
Cooper said predicting the effect of expected changes looming for the federal Affordable Care Act is impossible at this time, but the organization is confident about its value to the community.
“We don’t know what changes will be in store, but we don’t anticipate there will be less of a need,” she said.
For information about tickets for the event and sponsorship opportunities, call (904) 254-5075.