Dale Clark knows a thing or two about navigating the American healthcare system. He worked as a counselor after earning a masters degree in counseling psychology where he says a large percentage of his clients had no insurance or couldn't pay for services.
He has also survived three different cancer diagnoses in his lifetime and still counts himself lucky that he had health insurance during those trying times.
"But what if I didn't?"
That question is in part spurring Clark toward what he considers his new calling: to provide a means for the uninsured and underinsured in the state of Washington to receive basic healthcare services with an emphasis on prevention.
According to Clark, who is currently completing a doctorate in business and spending a lot of time researching healthcare issues in the U.S., there are 46 million American men, women and children who have no health insurance. Further, more than 15 million American women go without a yearly mammogram. Twenty-three percent of adults who have a chronic condition go untreated yearly again, because they don't have insurance and can't afford treatment/care otherwise.
"This isn't a healthcare crisis," he said. "It's a healthcare disaster."
His vision, then, for a mobile medical clinic that would go to a population and provide services started to form in January. Mobile medical clinics in Maryland and Arizona helped him form a clearer picture of the services he'd want his clinic to have: volunteer doctors manning a clinic that will see women and children as priorities but is open to all, a laboratory to run basic tests and cancer-screening machines, three exam rooms to see patients and a reception area among them.
And so the idea of the Mom and Me Mobile Medical Clinic was born.
"I just couldn't sit by any longer and know nothing was happening," he said. He acknowledges this project will probably set him further back in his own doctoral work but he needed to take action. "This was placed on my heart."
From Vision to Implementation
Eventually, Clark said he'd like the project to have five total mobile clinics up and running -- one in eastern Washington and four on the west side of the state due to the population spread. The first clinic, he said, will operate here on the Enumclaw Plateau.
The clinics could park outside of Walmart stores and after a patient receives a prescription, they could go into the store to have it filled, he said. The accessibility of Walmart means that mothers will want to take their children in for care and while there, Clark hopes the mother will receive preventative care, such as a breast cancer screening, as well.
Once a stronger foundation for the clinic project is formed, Clark said he would like to pursue grants and financial support from foundations like Susan G. Komen, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the American Heart and Lung associations.
Meanwhile, he's trying to keep the start-up funding local. He said he's approached the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation, which supports the .
Clark said he expects the cost of getting the truck and trailer purchased and set up will hover around $1 million.
He has already started to build up a support network of local and national resources to get the first mobile clinic up and running here.
WonGeneration is sharing its non-profit 501c3 status with Clark's Mom and Me Mobile Medical Clinic so that they can get to the business of putting together the 53-foot long trailers which will hold the clinic. It was also through WonGeneration, according to Clark, that Federal Way-based World Vision has already offered to donate several new exam tables valued at a few thousand dollars.
Union Bank and VFW Post 1414 in Buckley are also offering to help raise community funds.
In speaking with community members, Clark said he's received an offer from someone to donate a semi truck with 34,000 miles on it. He didn't accept it, he said. "Let's see what the community will do."
Clark said he hopes that residents will see the value in this project and bring themselves to make even a simple $5 donation. As the intent for the clinic is to help catch health issues before they develop into more serious conditions, "it's cheaper to give health care in this formula than to overwhelm the emergency rooms, which is what's happening now," he said.
On the new Mom and Me Mobile Medical Clinic website, Clark recounts an instance at Tacoma General Hospital where his wife, who had fallen ill, had to wait nine hours in the emergency room for care because hospital staff was tied up with assisting uninsured patients.
And his wife had insurance.
No Politics, Just Action
Having identified healthcare as "a disaster," Clark isn't interested in discussing or debating the issue. It is clear there is a need for healthcare in local communities as so many people are going without, he said. He's moving fast, hoping to have the clinic trailer up by July and to start seeing patients in September.
The U.S. is one of the richest societies on earth, and it's time for us to step up, he said. Likening his vision of serving the underserved to the civil rights movement of the 60s, "we didn't wait for our leaders to make the changes."
Having survived three cancers and even outlived his doctor, Clark said he truly believes this is why he is still here. The Mom and Me Mobile Medical Clinic isn't a pet project. "I didn't start this because I wanted to," he said. "I had to. It was planted in my heart."
If you are interested in giving financial support, you can donate at any Union Bank in the care of The Mom and Me Mobile Medical Cinic.