Community

Safe Harbor admin office aims to improve patient care

Julie Vess, executive director of Safe Harbor Free Clinic, stands by the sign for its new administrative office. - Courtesy photo.
Julie Vess, executive director of Safe Harbor Free Clinic, stands by the sign for its new administrative office.
— image credit: Courtesy photo.

STANWOOD — A community resource serving hundreds of Arlington and Marysville patients a year hopes that its latest facility will help further improve its service for everyone.

Safe Harbor Free Clinic is conducting a ribbon-cutting grand opening ceremony for its first-ever administrative office, at 9902 270th St. NW in Stanwood, at noon on Jan. 22.

Julie Vess, executive director of Safe Harbor, explained how a committed administrative office is necessary in the wake of the free clinic's dramatic increase in patients, given that they've seen more than 4,500 patients since opening their doors in June of 2009, nearly 60 percent of whom have come from Snohomish County.

"Two and a half years ago, Safe Harbor hired me as their new executive director, and a year and a half ago, they hired a part-time development director," Vess said. "We were all working out of our homes in shoeboxes, so this allows us to coordinate our efforts better for a start."

Vess explained that the new office gives Safe Harbor's administrators a place to meet with patients and respond to their needs throughout the week, while also holding public meetings.

"All of this allows Safe Harbor to provide continuity of care for our patients, and further strengthen our ties with the community," Vess said. "Our new office also provides a place for Safe Harbor volunteers to meet and discuss clinic operations, while clinic leaders can more effectively coordinate fundraisers and other events that support our services."

In addition to providing follow-up care to patients as needed and strengthening ties with the community, Vess anticipated that the 600-square-foot office building will facilitate delegation of clerical duties and management of electronic medical records, which is especially important to Safe Harbor's patients.

"Many of them are coming from the ER or other healthcare providers, so we often have to start from scratch," Vess said. "Even if they've come to Safe Harbor before, they'll usually see different doctors at each visit, so having their medical records accessible in electronic form ensures a greater continuity of care."

Out of the nearly 2,000 patients that Safe Harbor saw in 2012 alone, 245 came from Arlington while 210 were from Marysville, numbers that Vess predicted would only grow in 2013, even as she expected that Stanwood's usual number of roughly 300 patients would remain relatively unchanged.

"People wonder whether our services won't be used as much because of healthcare reform, but things don't look like they'll change that much on that front," Vess said. "We'll still help patients who qualify for Medicaid, and serve as a navigator for patients through the system, but many patients will still fall into the hole of not being able to afford insurance and choosing not to enter the insurance exchange market. Chronic care will get even busier. We're booked out to March for appointments already."

Vess described Safe Harbor's twice-a-month Saturday clinics, from 9 a.m. to noon, as full-up every weekend since starting in December.

The Safe Harbor Free Clinic Administrative Office is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, as well as 6-9 p.m. Fridays, and can be reached by phone at 425-870-7384 or via email at safeharborfreeclinic@msn.com.

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