This article originally appeared in the Desert Sun, April 2022.

A no-cost clinic in the Coachella Valley sounds like a wonderful dream. But some dreams are worth nursing.

Enter: Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine (CVVIM).

Nearly 12 years ago, the first uninsured, low-income patients walked through the doors of what was then a new local health center. Thousands of individuals in need of medical care have benefitted ever since.

“When we look at somebody, do we automatically assumed they have healthcare?” posits Doug J. Morin, Executive Director of CVVIM. “I talk to people about why some individuals don’t have healthcare and they’re just astounded. We can’t automatically assume that everyone can afford it. Just like there’s extreme wealth in the Valley, there’s also extreme poverty. Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine is here to help.”

A member of Volunteers in Medicine, a national nonprofit alliance with more than 90 free clinics across the country, CVVIM provides healthcare services in “a compassionate, caring way to our neighbors in need.”

Treating the whole person is key, Morin adds, noting that the organization addresses chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and acute conditions, such as flu, colds, preventive medicine, diet, and even emotional health.

Health education, wellness programs, case management, and community referrals for patients factor into this enterprising mix as the organization services all races and walks of life.

“There are individuals in every city in the Valley who live far below the poverty level guidelines, so what do those people do?” Morin says. “It’s important for them to know there’s an organization offering healthcare if they don’t have insurance, or they can’t afford to use their insurance, and/or they don’t make a great deal of money.”

Recently CVVIM received a grant from the Joyce Montgomery Donor Advised Fund through the IECF. Like many Coachella Valley change agents, CVVIM depends on grants and donations to serve those in need.

Morin is quick to note that unlike many health clinics, CVVIM does not receive revenue from the services it provides, making it undeniably unique.

“Most clinics get reimbursement from insurance programs, Medi-Cal, Medicare, or they’ll charge the patients using a sliding-fee scale—we don’t,” he says. “Our grants are No. 1 to us, and they’re roughly half of our budget. The rest comes from donations and our own fundraising efforts. In many ways, donations and grants, like the Joyce Montgomery Donor Advised Fund, are incredibly vital.”

For CVVIM’s free-of-charge services, patients must meet eligibility requirements, which include:

  • Being a Coachella Valley resident 18 years of age or older.
  • Proof of residency—utility bill in their name, pay stub, and the like.
  • A household income that does not exceed 200 percent of the current Federal Poverty Guidelines for the size of an individual’s family. For instance, for a family of four, the family’s annual income cannot exceed $52,400.

These guidelines are clearly outlined on CVVIM’s website.

Funds for CVVIM are delegated to cover everything from lab costs and MRIs to resources to train the many volunteers who donate their time, which, Morin points out, is yet another form of philanthropy.

“Our volunteers are wonderful,” Morin shares of the high-level physicians, nurses, and medical assistants who enter the fold. “Oftentimes, we get to know them and understand why they picked this clinic or why they wanted to give their time to help low-income people or those who are uninsured. I’m always interested in what makes people give.”

Of interesting note is the role the organization plays in education for medical professionals. CVVIM works closely with Eisenhower Health, taking medical residents in both its family medicine and internal medicine residency programs. The opportunity allows those professionals to enhance their education and receive actual experiences that complement their formal training.

“They really get to see a different side than what happens over at the medical office buildings, and there’s real value in that,” Morin says.

CVVIM hopes to further expand its services in the future. To that end, it may open an office in the West Valley.

When asked why he does this type of work, Morin is candid.

“I was raised to give back to the community,” he says. “As a kid, I trick-or-treated for UNICEF, going door to door, asking for donations. When I started having jobs, whether it was mowing lawns or a ‘real job,’ that money went into my savings and for the community, whether that was church or whatever. So, for me, at the end of the day, I want to feel that I’ve helped somebody—maybe not necessarily in a direct way, but that I helped. Ultimately, I feel like I’m making a difference for at least somebody.”

For more information about Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine, call (760) 342-4414 or visit cvvim.org.

To learn more about opening a donor advised fund so you can have an impact on the causes you care about, contact Brie Griset Smith, Senior Vice President of Charitable Giving, at bgrisetsmith@iegives.org.

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