VIM is Needed Now More than Ever

Since we opened our doors in 2004, VIM has evolved along with the changing demographics of the county while staying true to our mission of providing access to free, comprehensive healthcare to qualifying adults in the region.  Today, more than half of our patients are foreign born.  Before the coronavirus hit, most of them were working multiple part-time jobs, and all of them were struggling to pay the bills each month. 

Now, these people are among the first to have been laid off from the restaurants, resorts and cultural institutions that we treasure…many with no access to stimulus funds or unemployment checks.  Additional local workers are losing their jobs too, along with their employer-provided health insurance.  VIM is responding to meet the moment.

VIM Stepped Up During the Pandemic

In keeping with Massachusetts state guidelines regarding the coronavirus, VIM is gradually expanding our in-clinic services.  Throughout the pandemic, VIM’s staff has been seeing emergency medical and dental patients in person and ramping up telemedicine, and we have expanded our focus on the social determinants of health–the economic and social conditions that influence individual and group differences in health status.

VIM Patient Services Coordinator Natalia DeRuzzio distributing free lunch to patients.

VIM has been helping to provide a critical safety net for patients and their families:

  • We arranged for free surgery for a patient who broke his wrist badly while on the job. The orthopedist said that without the surgery, the patient would have lost full use of his arm and been unable to return to work.
  • We delivered a week of prepared meals to help a couple—both suffering with COVID 19—care for their ten- and eleven-year-old children. We arranged for the school to help the kids with their schoolwork and other activities while the parents were in bed, recovering.
  • With help from Berkshire United Way, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Construct, the MA Undocufund and other partners, VIM has already distributed more than $100,000 in cash to help support our patients until they can get back to work.

The COVID19 pandemic has severely curtailed the volunteer power that makes it possible for VIM to operate as efficiently as it does. Many of our 150+ volunteers fall into high-risk health categories and they may choose—or be required—to stay away from the clinic over the long-term. 

And We’re Preparing for the Future

In the coming months, VIM may need to replace some of that volunteer workforce with paid staff.  We also will need to make additional, costly investments in telemedicine to ensure we can continue to see our patients in the event of ongoing and future disruptions. 

VIM also is researching the best ways to keep our clinic and equipment disinfected and free of aerosolized contaminants.  We are committed to investing in state-of-the-art systems, which may include air filtration systems, UV light sanitizers and PPE; whatever it takes to keep our patients, practitioners, staff and volunteers safe. 

VIM’s core mission hasn’t changed but there’s no doubt our future will look different in many ways.  No matter what the future holds, VIM is more committed than ever to being here for our patients and community.  We’ll need everyone’s help.  Stay involved…and stay tuned.

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