KCLU's Lance Orozco sits down to discuss the Free Clinic of Simi Valley's 50th Anniversary with Free Clinic Executive Director, Fred Bauermeister.
Lance Orozco (LO): Stan Frgacic was having a tough time. The simi valley man was hit by the loss of his job and his divorce which left him squeezed financially.
Stan Frgacic (SF): I found myself out of a job. I found myself without insurance and I was on medication. I was on a statin for cholesterol. I was just like, you know what, I can't afford health insurance on my own. It's just way too expensive. I was just like [being] between a rock and a hard place.
LO: There was a clinic in his neighborhood. It was the Free Clinic of Simi Valley. He wondered maybe it could help.
SF: Driven by it about a million times, always wondered about it. I realized that the clinic was right there and I'm like you know what I'm going to use it.
LO: Frgacic did get help from the clinic. In fact, he's one of more than 400, 000 people helped by the Clinic which is celebrating its 50th anniversary today. What's really remarkable is that in the age of HMOs and PPOs, if you go to the Free Clinic of Simi Valley, you'll never get a bill and never be asked to pay.
Fred Bauermeister (FB): There's no charge for any of our services. We do invite people if they wish to make a donation. I'd like to say, you know, on behalf of the next person, if they'd like to make a donation, they're more than welcome to do that, but there's no charge.
LO: Fred Bauermeister is the Clinic's Executive Director. He says they have a unique financial model which has allowed them to stay in business for a half century.
FB: Altogether, we figure there's about 140 volunteer professionals, which includes the doctors, the nurses, attorneys, marriage family therapists, dentists, dental hygienists, and so forth, that all freely give their time to help others in the community. We're very grateful for them. Without them, we couldn't do anything.
LO: Bauermeister talks about the kinds of services they provide.
FB: We provide four primary services. We have medical services, dental services, marriage and family counseling, behavioral health services, and legal services. And so, all of those are the four areas [are] where all of those volunteers generously give their time to help others. For example, our dental program, we're open five days a week and we're staffed completely by volunteer dentists. So we support their good work and they and try and provide services to those less fortunate.
LO: The Clinic doesn't get federal funding which means it doesn't have to charge sliding scale fees or limit eligibility for care.
FB: There's no eligibility requirements to come here and I like saying that Lance, there are no eligibility requirements to come here. You can come from anywhere. You can be anybody. You can be rich. You can be poor. You, the patient, if you have a need, then we're here to help you.
LO: Bauermeister says they [the Clinic] recently moved into a 14,000 square foot building on Royal Avenue donated by Ventura County. They're using half of the space, with other non-profits using the other half. They built a new state-of-the-art facility. The Free Clinic survives through donations and grants ranging from hospitals, to community groups, like Rotary Clubs.
FB: We're dependent on the generosity of other folks that support us, to help the folks that we help. So, we have some great partnerships like, Adventist Health, like Kaiser Permanente, like the California Wellness Foundation, and here in Ventura County, folks like the Livingston Memorial Foundation and Swift Memorial Foundation, are all regular benefactors and supporters of the Free Clinic. Then we do our own fundraising event each year.
LO: Patient Stan Frgacic says he loves the Clinic. He says they helped him with things ranging from an ongoing prescription for cholesterol, to a tooth injured in a hockey game.
SF: I went to the Clinic and I was greeted by phenomenally great people. Everyone at the Clinic is absolutely, incredibly wonderful. I mean, I just can't tell you how, how, wonderful it was to have them.
LO: And as you look at the Clinic's half century history its legacy is that of its Executive Director. The remarkable thing about Fred Bauermeister is that he was one of the non-profit's original founders. He's been a part of it during its entire 50-year history. [To Fred] So when you started working, as they were trying to create this clinic 50 years ago, did you ever imagine that 50 years later you'd be there still?
FB: No, [Laughing] I and I, believe me, I would do it all in a minute over again. I loved every minute of being here. And it's always different and one of the things about that is every day is unique. There's a unique bunch of thinking, you've never had before. Some of the volunteers are different than the ones that were here the day before, and or the next day after that. So every day is like this whole new experience.
LO: Lance Orozco KCLU News