Seattle/King County Clinic is preparing to open its doors at Seattle Center on Oct. 20-23 to provide eye exams and prescription eyeglasses free of charge to more than 1,000 people in need. To meet this ambitious goal, organizers are recruiting hundreds of volunteers for the undertaking. Although no dental or medical care will be offered this year, after more than two years on hiatus, the clinic still expects the interest from prospective patients to be high.
“It’s incredibly difficult to work, go to school or just get through the day if you have vision problems that affect driving, reading, or seeing, but so many people don’t have access to the vision services they need,” said Dennis Worsham, Interim Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Even if you have health insurance, many plans don’t cover vision care, and there are almost no options for free or low-cost prescription glasses. Seattle/King County Clinic provides immediate relief to people who face barriers to getting critical vision care.”
The clinic needs eye care professionals, social workers, health insurance navigators, interpreters and general support volunteers to fill a range of functions and shifts. It also seeks volunteers in early December to help dispense the prescription eyeglasses that are ordered during the clinic. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old. Individuals may register at seattlecenter.org/volunteers.
Led by Seattle Center and Seattle Center Foundation, Seattle/King County Clinic is produced in partnership with healthcare organizations, civic agencies, nonprofits and private businesses. As well, more than 22,000 volunteers have served as the backbone of the clinic since its inception in 2014. Together these partners and volunteers address acute health issues among people who routinely face barriers getting the care they need. Clinic outcomes speak to the accomplishments of this effort in responding to a profound need in our community for accessible and affordable healthcare.
“Every person deserves access to quality vision and health care, but, sadly, the existing costly, cumbersome, and racially inequitable system causes too many to fall through the cracks without getting the support they need,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Seattle/King County Clinic is a great example for how we can create change and foster a healthier community by coming together through trust and collaboration.”
In its first six years, the clinic provided $20 million in direct services to 23,000 patients who came from over 260 unique zip codes and spoke more than 50 primary languages. Clinic patients are parents, children, elders, veterans, immigrants, refugees, people living homeless and, in large part, wage-earners who struggle with the high cost of living.
“I was truly surprised to see that people seeking services were just like me, my family, my co-workers and neighbors,” one volunteer said. “That was the biggest realization for me; folks who desperately need these services aren’t ‘them,’ they’re ‘us.’”
The commitment to produce an event of this magnitude represents the dedication of a caring community to address healthcare issues at the local level, make a difference for those who struggle to access and afford care, and raise awareness about who is left out of the current healthcare system.
To find out more about Seattle/King County Clinic, visit seattlecenter.org/skcclinic or call 206-684-7200.