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WesternU to play key role in Care Harbor LA, one of the largest free clinics in the country

by Rodney Tanaka

November 13, 2017

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COMP Chair of Family Medicine Dat Trinh, DO  ’03, shakes hands with patient Lloyd Stronach, 68, from West Los Angeles, at the January 2017 Care Harbor LA clinic. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

Care Harbor Los Angeles is returning Nov. 17-19, 2017, providing free medical, dental, vision and preventative care to thousands of Southern California residents who could not otherwise afford these services.

Western University of Health Sciences will once again a play key role in delivering services to Care Harbor patients during the event at The REEF Exposition Hall, 1933 South Broadway, Los Angeles. Students and faculty members from the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP), College of Podiatric Medicine, College of Optometry and College of Allied Health Professions will provide care and leadership.

The previous clinic, held Jan. 20-22, 2017 at The REEF, attracted more than 2,100 patients who received approximately 16,000 essential health care services, according to Care Harbor’s Report on Results. Nearly 2,600 volunteers contributed their services. The value of care delivered was estimated at about $1.9 million based on Medicare reimbursement or mean regional costs.

Care Harbor is working closely with Los Angeles County to reach out to homeless shelters with the hope of providing services to 150 to 300 homeless patients during the three-day event, said COMP Assistant Dean of Clinical Education Natalie A. Nevins, DO, MSHPE, who serves as Care Harbor LA’s medical director.

“We want to make sure patients who have not previously utilized Care Harbor services will have access,” Nevins said.

Care Harbor emphasizes continuity of care. Certified insurance navigators provided by L.A. County help educate and enroll patients into the coverage programs available to them. In January 2017, 312 patients were connected to clinics with locations and capabilities more suited to their needs, according to Care Harbor.

“If they have any type of medical problem and do not have a primary care doctor, they are assigned a medical home before they leave the event,” Nevins said.

WesternU’s College of Optometry will be co-leading Care Harbor’s vision section with UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute faculty. More than 40 WesternU optometry students are signed up to volunteer. WesternU and UCLA will provide comprehensive eye exams to patients.

“It’s excellent experience to work together,” said College of Optometry Director of Community Outreach Kristy Remick-Waltman, OD, FCOVD. “This is an interprofessional experience. We see the patient as a whole person and we provide total care.”

VSP is donating frames and will fill prescriptions along with K-Mars Optical. Patients who need glasses will receive free prescription glasses, which they can pick up three weeks after the clinic.

The College of Optometry encourages students to volunteer for philanthropic reasons and to gain experience, said College of Optometry Manager of Clinical Education Programs Kelee Visconti.

“For us it’s really good experience. We emphasize lifelong volunteering,” Visconti said. “Also, our students need volume. They are going to see a lot of patients at Care Harbor.”

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