Volunteers in Medicine officially transitions a new name, a new space and a new business model today, but volunteers who put their heart and soul into the organization for two decades say one thing isn’t changing — the mission.
The Volunteers in Medicine mission statement has been placed on the wall at the new VIMCare Clinic, which takes over today providing medical care to area residents who are uninsured or those enrolled in Indiana’s Medicaid coverage plan.
The mission statement says, “We welcome those in need to come without fear, and we invite those who serve to come without pride, so that their meeting may bring healing and hope to both.”
The new clinic opens today in about 6,000-square feet of refurbished space that was once the Columbus Regional Hospital emergency department in the center of the hospital campus at 2400 E. 17th St. In May, the hospital moved its emergency facilities to a new, 16,350-square-foot emergency department on the hospital campus’ southeast side, a $16 million investment.
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In addition to the new name VIMCare, and the move from Volunteers In Medicine’s former location near 10th Street and Marr Road where the clinic has been for two years, the organization also has a new business model — one that does not include using volunteer clinicians, as had been the case in the 20 years since it launched in 1996.
More than 250 local physicians, nurses, dentists, oral surgeons, pharmacists, social workers, psychologists and therapists, assisted by community volunteers, have donated their time to Volunteers in Medicine over the years, but the new business model calls for a full-time paid staff.
The new VIMCare team includes a primary care physician, a practice manager and a consulting physician and psychiatrist. Two different medication-assistance programs offered in Columbus, one through Volunteers in Medicine and one through United Way, have merged and now will be offered out of VIMCare in a special area near the clinic’s waiting room.
VIMCare is in the process of developing new ways for volunteers to participate in the clinic.
VIMCare’s business model needed to change as a result of new health care rules through the state, which required many Volunteer in Medicine patients to sign up for HIP 2.0, which is Indiana’s Medicaid insurance product. Since the organization would be required to see the newly insured patients, a new clinic model needed to be created to provide access to the Medicaid insurance patients as well as those who have no insurance.
Instead of relying on donations and charitable fundraising, about 70 percent of VIMCare’s funding will now come from state and federal health care reimbursement programs, county officials said.
However, there is still a need for fundraising for initiatives including supporting the medication-assistance program, and services including mental health and social work, chronic disease management, tobacco-cessation counseling, among others.
The Columbus Regional Hospital Foundation awarded more than $450,000 to Volunteers in Medicine in 2015 and estimates it will need to continue to raise more than $360,000 annually for VIMCare for the next three years, according to VIMCare’s new information brochure.
Treating more patients
The new model will allow VIMCare to treat a larger number of patients, up to 4,000 to 5,000 a year, compared to the estimated 1,400 a year previously served under Volunteers in Medicine.“This (VIMCare) will still be the safety net for health care for the community,” said Julie Abedian, vice president of community partnerships and corporate responsibility at Columbus Regional Health.
An Aug. 30 open house provided an opportunity for Volunteers in Medicine volunteers, community leaders and hospital leaders to tour the new VIMCare Clinic, which has five exam rooms, a nurse’s station, a special area dedicated to medication assistance and work areas for the staff.
The freshly painted space features the colors and style of the hospital’s new emergency department, with work from local photographers gracing the walls and wood accents throughout the facility.
Dr. Amy Hale, who will be the full-time primary care physician at VIMCare, told visitors at the open house that she too has a connection to Volunteers in Medicine, serving as a volunteer there as she prepared to become a doctor. Born and raised in Columbus, Hale graduated from Indiana University and completed her residency in Indianapolis.
She reassured those attending the open house that she too remembered the Volunteers in Medicine mission statement hanging on the wall in the former Jackson Street clinic, and understanding that the organization represented something truly special and unique about Columbus.
“It took a dedicated group of talented and committed individuals to get VIM off the ground and keep it going all these years,” she said. “I see that same commitment with VIMCare.”
Hale explained that in addition to the medication-assistance merger, which serves the entire community, VIMCare is adopting an innovative model to better address the mental health needs for patients, she said. A full-time social worker will be hired to better address the social factors that often influence patient health, she said.
VIMCare has two Spanish-speaking staff members in addition to trying a mobile, online interpretation device, to help patients who do not speak English, Hale said.
While much of VIMCare’s new facility is sparkling new, the result of about $500,000 the hospital budgeted for the space, some equipment and furnishings are coming from Volunteers in Medicine, Abedian said. Nearly 2,500 Columbus Regional Health Foundation donors and supporters had contributed to an endowment annually since the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic opened, which allowed nearly $9 million to be used to provide care through the clinic.Three of four exam tables used by Volunteers in Medicine are being used in VIMCare, and some equipment is moving as well.
Some of the furnishings such as waiting room furniture are being supplied through the hospital so that it will match the decor throughout the facility, but Volunteers in Medicine decided to donate its old waiting room furniture in the community.
That furniture is going to Brighter Days Housing, a new emergency housing facility that is scheduled to open soon on Columbus’ east side, a collaborative project between the Columbus Township Trustee’s office and Love Chapel.
While presenting a city proclamation honoring the opening of VIMCare at the open house, Mary Ferdon, the city executive director of administration and community development, said she was “excitedly sad” as the clinic made the transition to its new business model after a period of uncertainty and twists and turns over what the organization would become.
Ferdon spent nearly three years as executive director at Volunteers in Medicine, beginning in 2013, and said while the moment was bittersweet, the new model will allow the organization to serve far more patients than ever before with more opportunities to change people’s lives by improving their health care.
When reading the proclamation that declared Aug. 30 as Volunteers in Medicine Day, she noted that Columbus Regional Hospital donated more than $1 million annually since Volunteers in Medicine opened in in-kind lab tests, X-rays and medications. The hospital saw Volunteers in Medicine patients free if the patient needed inpatient care at the hospital, Ferdon said.
Abedian reminded everyone that this isn’t the final transition for the organization, as the stay at Columbus Regional Hospital is estimated to be about three years, as of now.
“By about the years 2019 to 2020, we will be thinking about moving outside the walls of the hospital,” she said.
What the clinic does: Provides health care services to uninsured patients or those with HIP2.0, the state’s Medicaid program or other Medicaid coverage.
Address: 2400 17th St., Columbus, IN 47201, on the Columbus Regional Hospital campus in the former emergency department offices.
Parking and transportation: Until permanent parking is available, patients are asked to use the valet service at the main hospital entrance (located on 18th Street from Hawcreek Boulevard), or park in the main visitor lot. Additionally, ColumBUS route 3 stops at this location. Bicycle racks are also available.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday; 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
To schedule an appointment: The clinic operates on an appointment basis. This allows clinic staff to schedule patients with the most appropriate provider, based on need. Call 812-375-3660 during clinic hours for scheduling questions.