When the coronavirus pandemic shut down area businesses, many of VIM’s patients lost their jobs. Now that our economy is slowly re-opening, there are more opportunities for employment. But how can patients who are parents return to work without a safe place for their children to go? And how can they pay for childcare after months without a paycheck?

VIM has found an innovative way to be part of the solution. Through generous grants provided by the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund and the Fish Family Foundation, VIM is in the process of distributing $50,500 in cash assistance for childcare to 65 patients and their families.

“VIM’s patients, many of whom are ineligible for government assistance, have been among the hardest hit financially by the coronavirus,” explains Ilana Steinhauer, FNP, VIM’s Executive Director. “By providing funding to assist with childcare, we’re helping to remove a significant barrier to meaningful employment while opening the doors for safe, fun and healthy activities for patients’ children. We’re extremely grateful to our granting institutions for making this program possible.”

Through this effort, VIM is distributing cash grants to each family. It is up to the families themselves to select the childcare option that works best for them. In addition, many of VIM’s volunteers, donors and staff are getting in on the effort by purchasing toys, games, puzzles, art supplies and other fun and educational materials to give to the children. Readers who are interested in donating money or new toys may call VIM at 413-528-4014 or email mshalaby@vimberkshires.org.

“Many of our patients are single parents,” notes Natalia DeRuzzio, VIM’s Patient Services Manager, who has been collecting and processing the applications for the cash grants. “Access to affordable childcare is absolutely essential for patients to return to work and prepare financially for typical, seasonal unemployment in the winter months or a second phase of quarantining, if there is a new wave of the pandemic. These grants won’t solve all of their problems, but they will help families recover a little faster.”

About Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires

VIM’s mission is to provide access to quality health care for income-qualified, uninsured and underinsured adults living in the Berkshire region. VIM provides free, integrated medical and dental care, behavioral health services, optometry, nutrition counseling, massage and acupuncture and has pioneered Shared Medical Appointments and a Non-Opioid Pain Management Program in Berkshire County.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, VIM has continued to treat patients by combining a mix of telephone and in-clinic visits. The goal has been to keep patients healthy and—very importantly—away from hospital emergency rooms. VIM also continues to take a lead role among local social service organizations to coordinate our community response and, in the first three months following the shutdown, distributed more than $150,000 in spot grants to help patients pay for rent, heat, electricity, phone service, food, and more until they can get back to work.

In 2019, VIM’s volunteer and staff clinicians treated nearly 1,000 individual patients over more than 6,000 visits. In addition, VIM volunteers provided nearly 900 free rides for patients to and from critical medical appointments. VIM also made over 800 referrals to address patient needs for housing, personal safety, legal aid and other social determinants of health. We envision a society in which all members of our community have an equal opportunity to achieve good health.

VIM Berkshires, Inc. is designated as a 501(c) (3) public charity under Federal Tax ID# 90-0140004 and is governed by a volunteer board of trustees.

(infomration obtained from a press release sent to WSBS from VIM for online and on air use; photo sent to WSBS from VIM for online use) 

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