A Remote Area Medical Clinic (RAM) is coming to Paonia Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 3 and 4.

For those who have never heard of RAM clinics, the first clinic was held in 1985 to provide free, quality healthcare services to the under-served and uninsured. Patients receive free, professional dental, vision and medical services on a first-come, first-served basis. The clinic is open to anyone, regardless of where they live. Participants do not need to provide proof of insurance or financial information.

"The success of the clinic depends on volunteers," said event coordinator and former Paonia resident Connie Emmons. Response to the clinic has, for the most part, been strong. All services will be provided by professionals, with the assistance of volunteers. Local Lions Clubs are assisting with all stages of the clinic.

This will be the first RAM clinic held in Colorado, said Emmons, who now lives in New Jersey. Last year she coordinated 16 clinics, including one in Hazard, Ky. Like the North Fork area, she said, it's a coal mining town with an economy hit hard by mine closures. Since closures began in the North Fork area she has wanted to bring a clinic here. "I could see a need," she said.

All patients will go through triage, including blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar screenings, prior to seeing a doctor. Dental services include oral exams, X-rays, extractions, fillings and cleanings. However, due to anticipated heavy attendance and time constraints, patients are asked to choose each day between dental or eye exams.

Professional eye exams and prescription eyeglasses are available. The eyeglasses are brand new, said Emmons. While some prescriptions will be filled on-site, those whose prescriptions can't be filled will receive their glasses through the U.S. Postal Service within two to three weeks and at no charge.

Pelvic exams and pap smears are available for women.

The clinic will also provide student sports physicals. Required for participation in high school sports, "We can't stress this enough," said Emmons.

The Delta County Health Services department will provide information on public health services available in the county. No immunizations will be given at the clinic, said Emmons, "But we hope to provide them next year."

The success of the clinic relies heavily on volunteers, said Emmons. Dental is one area where volunteers are lacking. The more dental professionals on hand, the higher the number of patients that can receive care. They also need licensed vision professionals, as well as volunteers to perform preliminary screenings and hand out glasses.

Volunteers are also needed unload the 27-foot trucks that will bring the clinic to town beginning Thursday, Aug. 1, and to load them back up when the clinic closes on Sunday, July 4. Trucks will be hauling dental chairs, generators, exam room curtains and food and water. "It's heavy stuff," said Emmons. "Trucks are stacked, packed and racked to the gills."

They also need help with set-up and take-down, directing traffic, selling T-shirts, providing general information and other tasks, said Emmons. "Teardown is really crucial," she said. By that time, everyone is tired.

Spanish and American Sign Language interpreters are also needed.

RAM clinics are not government funded, said Emmons. She reiterates that patients will not be asked for health insurance or financial information. Services are provided free of charge. "The only cost is time, because you have to sit and wait your turn," said Emmons.

RAM clinics also do not accept appointments. Participants are asked to park at Paonia Junior-Senior High School, 846 Grand Ave. Beginning at 12 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, and throughout the two-day clinic. Volunteers will assign numbers at the parking lot on a first-come, first-served basis. Starting at about 6 a.m., patients will be shuttled to the Energy Tech campus and admitted to the clinic based on their number.

Success of the clinic is measured in volunteer hours and the number of patients the clinic admits. If it's a success, Emmons said she'd like to return next year. She urges people to volunteer. "Volunteering at a clinic can be a life-changing experience," she said. Many people who use them haven't seen a doctor or dentist in years and are in pain, or are squinting because they can't afford new glasses. Many of their patients are children.

"They're struggling," she said. "And they are very grateful. Many of the patients are in tears... Once you do a clinic, you see things in a whole new light."

Those wanting to volunteer or provide services can call Emmons at 865-456-0127. For more information, visit www.ramusa.org.

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