$100,000 given to clinic for uninsured
Grant is increased for Volunteers in Medicine
By Anne Krueger
, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 12:01 a.m.
EAST COUNTY — An El Cajon clinic that treats people without health insurance has gotten its own healthy boost: a $100,000 grant from the Grossmont Healthcare District.
The district board voted unanimously last week for the grant, although a board committee that studies grant requests had recommended awarding $60,000 to the Volunteers in Medicine clinic.
“This is really a wonderful organization,” board President Gloria Chadwick said in asking that the amount to the clinic be increased. “It truly meets our mission.”
The Grossmont Healthcare District, which oversees Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, has $2 million set aside in its $6 million budget this year to award grants to organizations that serve unmet health care needs in East County. Because of a drop in property taxes, the amount for grants was reduced from $2.5 million last fiscal year, and the board set a policy that organizations would receive 80 percent of the amount they received in 2008.
Because the Volunteers in Medicine clinic last received $75,000, the committee had recommended the reduced amount of $60,000 to comply with the board policy. Committee Chairman James Stieringer said he agreed the clinic should receive more.
The clinic, located in a portable trailer on the grounds of Chapel of the Valley United Methodist Church on East Madison Avenue in El Cajon, opened in 2006. Volunteer physicians and health care workers there provide free care for uninsured East County residents who aren’t eligible for programs for the poor such as Medi-Cal.
The clinic, with six volunteer physicians and a $156,800 annual budget, is treating an increasing number of people because of the rising unemployment rate, according to its grant application. In 2008, the clinic treated 951 patients. It treated 972 patients in the first nine months of 2009.
Even Ray Lutz, an El Cajon-area resident who has been critical of the board’s policy in awarding grants, was pleased by the decision to give additional money to the Volunteers in Medicine clinic.
“I am so happy,” Lutz told the board. “I was going to suggest the same thing.”
In December, the district board awarded $100,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of East County toward a $3.5 million renovation of the youth organization’s El Cajon facility.
Board member Michael Long voted against the award, saying he didn’t think it complied with the district’s goal of improving health care. Lutz also criticized the board for the vote, saying the money should be directed to organizations more directly involved with health care.