Many Southwest Louisiana residents can’t afford basic medical expenses, like a pair of glasses or dental work, and often let their needs go unmet as a result.

Recognizing this, the city of Lake Charles has decided to partner with local medical providers to offer free dental, vision and general care at a temporary clinic in the Civic Center for one weekend in September. 

Mayor Nic Hunter has called it the first large-scale endeavor of its kind in the state and a “much-needed opportunity for thousands of residents in our community.”

The mobile clinic, set for all day Sept. 15 and half a day Sept. 16, is made available through Remote Area Medical, a nonprofit founded in 1985 to serve residents in developing countries.

The city’s role will be organizing the event and providing access to the Civic Center, while backers like Calcasieu Parish, the Calcasieu Medical Reserve Corps, the United Way and area hospitals foot the cost. Local doctors, nurses and volunteers will man the event.

Hunter announced the event this week after about six months of planning. The idea for the clinic came from city Wellness Nurse Coordinator Emily Ashworth, who was inspired after visiting a RAM event in Houston that served over 600 in a weekend. 

Ashworth said attendees won’t need proof of insurance, residency or income, and are encouraged to “just show up and get a ticket.”

She said she’s hoping people who attend the clinic connect with local medical providers who can provide long-term care based on their financial needs, such as SWLA Center for Health Services — a clinic that offers a wide range of medical services at discounted prices to individuals based on income.

According to the United Way’s latest ALICE report, 42 percent of households in Louisiana could not afford basic needs such as housing, child care, food, health care and transportation in 2014. That’s nearly half the population, and the results are mirrored in Southwest Louisiana.

The city could have easily washed its hands of the issue and left the job to others. Instead, it pooled its resources with other organizations to accomplish what it couldn’t have alone, an encouraging example of what partnerships can do.

Hats off to the city for spearheading this effort.

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