CVIM fill the gaps where insurance falls short

“Everyone has a right to quality health care.”

The words of Centre Volunteers in Medicine Executive Director Cheryl White sum up the attitude of what CVIM is and what the volunteers do. 

The longstanding Centre County medical care provider, which first opened its doors in 2003, according to its website, offers numerous medical services, assistance and case management to the under- or uninsured residents and workers of the county. For those who qualify, CVIM provides an avenue to turn to for much-needed medical care.

“We’re the free clinic in town,” White said. “We serve about 1,000 unique patients a year. We have 199 volunteers who do everything from see the patients to take out the trash.”

CVIM describes itself as the “medical home” for its patients, according to its website. Similar to a family practice, the organization provides physical exams and acute care while treating chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Specific health care for women is also provided, the site said, including cancer screenings and birth control counseling.

CVIM also provides medication assistance, the site said, providing many medicines to patients at no cost. Medications are obtained through applications to “indigent drug programs” through pharmaceutical companies, bulk drug purchases and payments to partnering pharmacies.

The volunteers come from the various health care providers in the county, White said, and includes physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and lay volunteers. CVIM partners with Mount Nittany Medical Center, Geisinger Health and Hershey Medical Center, but also partners with Penn State education through residency programs, health policy administration and social work interns.

By far, she said, the dental program is the most in-demand service, with 1,200 people waiting for a first-time appointment. CVIM employs a staff dentist who is able to provide service twice a week.

Dental services most sought at the clinic include emergency evaluations, extractions, basic cleanings and diagnostic referrals, the website said.

While the need for medical service remains high, CVIM also provides case management service, the website said, acknowledging the need for basics such as housing, heat and food. The organization acts as an entry point for these other “safety net” services in the county, White said, while seeking to enroll visitors in any insurance they may qualify for.

“If we can get them an affordable insurance, then that’s one more person that can come in our door if we have one less patient,” she said.

Funding for CVIM is partly provided through United Way, White said, but “95 percent of our funding comes right from the community.” 

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews