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Gathering Inn offers free community health care

By: Megan Wood The Press Tribune
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The doctor is in. After more than 30 years working as a physician for Kaiser Permanente, Roseville resident Tom Stanko was just getting used to the idea of retirement until he was confronted with an opportunity to rejoin the medical field and, in doing so, make a difference. As volunteer physicians at the Gathering Inn, Stanko and his colleagues, Mike Pitcher, a Rocklin resident and Dale Robbins, a Lincoln resident, help operate a newly opened community health care clinic every Saturday for the homeless or those without insurance. “I missed being a physician, I missed my patients,” Stanko said. “You always meet interesting people and I always liked that.” The new clinic opened its doors in April and provides basic health care every Saturday for low and no-income families free of charge. “We found that the lower-income population were using emergency rooms as primary care,” said Suzi deFosset, executive director of the Gathering Inn. “We felt that if they were able to get care earlier, diseases wouldn’t progress as fast.” The clinic is only open on Saturday mornings to eliminate the need for patients to leave work for medical appointments and sacrifice hourly pay, deFosset said. Partnered with Placer County and St.Vincent de Paul, the health clinic is suited to treat minor ailments like sunburns and cold symptoms to infections. More serious illnesses that require continuous monitoring are referred to a Placer County facility such as the Auburn Community Health Clinic. “It’s a big help to have qualified physicians that can recognize a problem and how to best address it and refer to Auburn if necessary,” said Alex Klistoff, medical director of the Auburn-based Placer County community clinic. “Sometimes it takes a professional to force someone to realize the need for additional help.” According to Klistoff, another program benefit is the accessibility of triage clinics like those at the Gathering Inn and St. Vincent de Paul as they are available to anyone without an appointment. Brian McGuire has used the Auburn clinic to monitor his high blood pressure; an issue that required a hurried trip to the emergency room last year after his high blood pressure skyrocketed. A swollen, infected gum causing severe head and tooth pains caused McGuire to seek treatment at the Gathering Inn clinic where he was examined and treated by Stanko and Pitcher. Dean Perkins, a regular visitor at the Gathering Inn had been suffering from an upper-respiratory infection for some time before visiting the clinic. Last winter, Perkins experienced flu-like symptoms and several days of high fever, an illness he now feels he should have seen a doctor for but was unable to receive treatment. “I wouldn’t go to the emergency room because I can’t afford it. I’d just sit there and worry about the bill,” Perkins said. “It’s scary because people die over the simplest things because they can’t get help.” The health clinic is equipped to administer vaccinations, thanks to a partnership with Placer County that provides the serums and syringes needed for flu and tetanus vaccines as well as tuberculosis tests. While patients wait for their turn, they are welcome to shop the Clothes Closet, a collection of donated clothing available to anyone in need. While he waited, Perkins stocked up on a new pair of pants and a handful of new shirts. At the end of the afternoon, Perkins came away with new clothes and a prescription for his respiratory infection to be filled at a local pharmacy. “I feel like we should be taking care of our neighbors. I’ve always enjoyed doing what I do and meeting interesting people,” Stanko said. “Being able to volunteer and give in any way enriches my life and I’m happy to do it.” In addition to health care, the Gathering Inn provides those in need with an opportunity for a shower and change of clothes, hot meal and shelter for the night at one of the 45 churches throughout Placer County that partner with the organization. Know and Go What: Gathering Inn Health Clinic Where: 201 Berkeley Ave., Roseville Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Walk-ins accepted until 11:30 a.m. How you can help: Clothing Closet What’s needed - blue jeans, T-shirts, jackets, men and women’s casual wear, personal hygiene items such as deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, razors and soap. Donations accepted from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monetary donations accepted online at thegatheringinn.com.