KGOU

Oklahoma City Nonprofit Needs Volunteers To Keep Up With High Patient, Services Demand

Dec 29, 2016

A local free clinic that treated about 3,300 patients and provided more than 16,000 services to low-income residents last year needs more doctors, dentists and pharmacists to meet high patient demand.

Those health care professionals will have to work for free. Good Shepherd Ministries executive director Pam Timmons had to lay off paid staff this year, and the volunteers will help her meet the rising demand for low-cost health care, The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports:

Timmons hired more people and doubled her capacity since 2011, after she received a $7 million grant from the Butterfield Memorial Foundation. She expanded the clinic, stays open five days per week and provides specialty services one night per month. Previously the clinic was open one night per week and couldn’t keep up with demand.

But the grant wasn’t renewed and she couldn’t raise enough in donations to offset the difference. So she had to lay off staff members in 2016. She cut the pharmacy from five days per week to three.

. . .

Medical and dental students from local universities and community colleges help provide a large portion of the health services patients receive at Good Shepherd Ministries clinics. But those students must have a licensed supervisor to oversee their work.

“Our student population is well-established,” Timmons said. “There is a huge need for professionals who can treat more patients.”

Across the country, 75 percent of nonprofit organizations say demand for services has increased, while support from state governments has gone down, especially when it comes to health and human services.

Dan Billingsley with the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits said any organization that relies on volunteers should have a well-organized program to recruit and coordinate those helpers. That means a nonprofit needs a structure to recruit volunteers and to schedule their time.

Volunteers should also be treated like employees, Billingsley said. They should have an orientation and training, as well as a way to give and to be rewarded for their service. That reward structure can be similar to how donors are thanked, he said.

“Because when you have high demand for your service, you have to have a sophisticated structure to handle your volunteer program,” Billingsley said. “And you have to thank them for their hours of service.”

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