Mischa Levis, a medical and dental assistant at Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics (VIMO), sterilizes dental equipment. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Mischa Levis, a medical and dental assistant at Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics (VIMO), sterilizes dental equipment. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics to expand thanks to $698,000 in state funding

PORT ANGELES — The Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics free clinic is set to receive $698,000 in state funding, allowing the volunteer clinic to expand, see patients sooner and shorten its wait lists.

“We are extremely grateful to Sen. [Kevin] Van De Wege, Rep. [Steve] Tharinger and Rep. [Mike] Chapman for supporting us in this very important funding for our clinic,” said T. Scott Brandon, development and operations director for Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics (VIMO).

The funding was included in the state’s supplemental capital budget. The Senate approved the budget Thursday in a 49-0 vote and House passed the budget last Tuesday 96-2.

VIMO is a free clinic staffed by volunteers. It primarily serves low-income and homeless patients living in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

The funding will be used to create an administrative and behavioral health annex on another part of the property at 819 E. Georgiana St. in Port Angeles, purchase equipment for the clinic and pay off the property.

Right now, there’s little space available at the clinic, Brandon said. Administrators are sharing a medical exam room and the behavioral health clinic shuffles between rooms throughout the building.

One of the counselors currently works in a space that’s no larger than a closet, he said.

“The expansion is critical to enable us to do what our mission is within our community, and that is to be a safety net clinic for our community,” Brandon said.

The expansion, which he said will begin as soon as the funds are available, will expand medical capacity by 40 percent, more than double the clinic’s behavioral health capacity and provide an actual administrative and storage space.

Last year the clinic served more than 3,200 patient appointments, he said. With the expansion Brandon said he believes the clinic could serve as many as 4,000 appointments in a year.

New patient appointments are currently scheduled out about six weeks. The expansion could bring the wait time down to about two weeks, he said.

The expansion also would help with the 300-person wait list at the dental clinic and allow the clinic to add more behavioral health counselors, he said.

Brandon said this expansion has been “a long time coming” and that he is thankful for the people and organizations that have supported VIMO.

It comes at the heels of the clinic’s latest dental expansion two years ago, he said.

VIMO moved to its current location in 2014, which at the time doubled its capacity. The free clinic originally opened in 2005 and — at the time — served patients from a 750-square-foot house.

“We’re very grateful for the continued support we have received from the entire community,” he said.

For more information, see http://www.vimoclinic.org/. Call the medical clinic at 360-457-4431 and the dental clinic at 360-477-4120.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

From left, doctors Gerald Stephanz and Joseph Cress with Medical Assistant Michael Salyer, medical clinic manager, participate in a University of Washington psychiatry and addiction case conference from the Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics office in Port Angeles. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

From left, doctors Gerald Stephanz and Joseph Cress with Medical Assistant Michael Salyer, medical clinic manager, participate in a University of Washington psychiatry and addiction case conference from the Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics office in Port Angeles. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

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