Volunteers of all talents are needed to help provide free healthcare to thousands of people at a two-day clinic in Jenkins.
"We can’t do this without the volunteers," said Stan Brock, founder of Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps (RAM). "It’s the lifeblood of the organization."
The RAM event scheduled for Sept. 26 and 27 at Jenkins High School will be the first of its kind to be held in Letcher County.
"These clinics are designed for the working people that cannot afford insurance or co-pays, for people that have met hard times and are not working, for those that are disabled and do not have sufficient insurance, for the elderly and retired people that are just making ends meet, and all the others that have no resources to get the care they need," said William E. Collins, D.M.D, a Pikeville dentist who is a member of RAM Kentucky.
General medical services such as mammograms and blood sugar and cholesterol checks will be available as well as dental and vision services. Dental services include cleanings, fillings and extractions. Vision services include eye exams and glasses.
The services are offered on a first come, first served basis. People are to park at the Jenkins Industrial Park. The clinic will open promptly at 6 a.m. and will end at 6 p.m. on that Saturday. The clinic will reopen at 6 a.m. on Sept. 27 and will end at 2 p.m.
"We can never see all the people that come so the trick is to get there as early as possible," said Brock.
People needing services will be given a number at the industrial park. Hettie Adams, coordinator for the Letcher County RAM event, said numbers will be issued beginning at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 25. She said at pre vious events held in nearby counties, people arrived the night before and camped out or waited in vehicles.
"We will give out numbers as you enter this area," said Adams, executive secretary for Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward. "Anyone needing services has to get a number. Once you get your number you cannot leave the site. If you leave you have to turn your number back in."
Patients will be shuttled to the high school beginning Saturday morning.
"They must keep their numbers with them until they register or they cannot register," said Adams. "Once they are registered they are checked in and taken to the area they need service."
Adams said people who did not receive services on Saturday be issued a new number and will need to return on Sunday morning.
"At every clinic I have always seen patients in need and appreciative to the point it will break your heart and bring tears to your eyes," said Collins.
At a RAM event held in Pike County in June, 830 patients were registered and 1,106 total services rendered during the two-day event.
Brock said 5,598 patients were served at a RAM event in Wise County, Va. in July.
"This would be the clean-up hitter, so to speak, for all those who were not seen at those two clinics as well as provide healthcare to those in Letcher a little closer to home," said Collins. "With the layoffs in the mines and the down spiraling economy this would be an ideal site for the clinic."
Dr. David A. Narramore, a Whitesburg dentist, said people will come from various locations including east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky to receive free medical care.
Services will be provided by volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists, optometrists, dental hygienists, nurse practitioners, and other trained health professionals from Letcher County and across Kentucky.
"We would like to get as many medical professionals as we can from Letcher County involved in this event," said Adams.
Brock said optometrists and opticians are greatly needed to volunteer for the upcoming clinic.
Brock said it would be easier to find volunteers if medical professionals could come from other states and volunteer for the RAM events. He said under Kentucky law medical professionals from other states are not permitted to practice medicine in Kentucky.
"If we are short of help we cannot supplement it by bringing in people out of state to help," said Brock.
In addition to medical volunteers, Adams said 200 general volunteers are needed during the twoday event to hand out numbers, register patients and point them in the right direction. She said volunteers are needed at both the industrial site and at the high school.
Missy Matthews, one of three owner/operators of Childers Oil Company, volunteered as a cook at the Pikeville RAM event held at Pike County Central High School in June.
"The patients were so appreciative," said Matthews. "One thing I was passionate about was feeding the patients. I would pass out water and snacks and then go around the corner and cry. " Matthews, whose company paid a total of $20,000 to help sponsor the Letcher County and Pike County events, said she will arrive at 3 a.m. at the RAM clinic in Jenkins to begin cooking breakfast.
"The thing that broke my heart the most were the kids that got glasses," said Matthews. "They were so proud and they could see. Those are things that we take for granted."
Narramore said volunteers are also needed for crowd control and to clean up at the end of the event. He said volunteers are needed to serve food to volunteers and patients.
Narramore said 35 general volunteers have signed up to help at the RAM expedition, but that many more volunteers are needed.
"While they have the healthcare providers there they want to provide services to as many people as possible," said Narramore. "We don’t want to see people waiting in line all day and then be turned away because we didn’t have enough volunteers."
The RAM event is scheduled the same weekend as the Mountain Heritage Festival and organizers know they would have more volunteers if it was set for a different weekend. Narramore said the University College of Dentistry chose the date based on the college’s academic calendar. He said if the event was rescheduled people would have had to wait until next year to receive much-needed care.
Narramore said he has volunteered at RAM events in Pike County because he recognized a gap in healthcare services.
"This is a way to bridge the gap for people who don’t have insurance or are under insured," said Narramore. "It gives a good sense of community for the county in the fact that we are taking care of people that need help."
The RAM events are funded through private donations and receive no monetary assistance from the government.
Sponsors for the Letcher County RAM clinic are Childers Oil Company and EQT Resources. The University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, the Letcher County Health Department and Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital are providing services and equipment for the event. Jenkins Independent School Board is allowing the high school to be used as the facility for the clinic. Letcher County Fiscal Court is the host for the event.
Narramore said people needing eye care are urged to call the Whitesburg Lions Club at 633-5718 and ask it to bring its mobile unit to the RAM event.
"It’s heartbreaking but is also gratifying when you are part of a bigger picture," said Matthews.
Those wanting to be a general volunteer for the RAM event can call Adams at 633-2129.
Medical professionals wanting to volunteer can call Lana Polly-Mullins at 633-2945. Dentists wanting to volunteer can call Narramore at 633-4854.