“Just imagine if you did not have health insurance. What would you do if you, or a loved one, needed medical care but you had nowhere to turn for help?” This is the fundamental question Jim Peterson, VIM Founding Director, and other key founders asked themselves twenty years ago when faced with the reality of a growing uninsured population in Deschutes County. While attending a conference in Hilton Head, the group learned about an all-volunteer medical clinic, and the model was considered a viable solution to issues faced back home. A representative from the Hilton Head clinic was invited to Bend, and together, they solicited input from local medical professionals. The response was one of resounding support, and the VIM journey began.
Now retired, Jim practiced law at Karnopp Petersen for decades and also served as the Board Chair of Cascade Healthcare Community, the parent organization that owns St. Charles Medical Group. In addition to his many professional contributions, Jim is held in high regard as an anchor of the Bend community. Together with Dr. Ron Carver, Jim Lussier and Christine Winters, he provided the leadership and vision that enabled VIM to grow into the institution it is today. While the model existed elsewhere, it took educating the local community and provider network that providing free healthcare would not only be the ‘right’ thing to do, but would improve the overall efficiencies and cost impact of healthcare in the area. Says Jim, “We were then, and are today, institutionally unique as a ‘safety net clinic’ offering totally free health care for the chronically uninsured.”
While the early successes of securing a lease, funding and donations were all critical, Jim credits the overwhelming response from the local medical community as the key component of VIM’s early success and its continued ability to deliver care today. He recalls, “Our medical community stepped up from the very beginning. Volunteers literally came out of the woodwork and asked how they could help.” He believes that VIM’s strength lies in its ability to recruit providers who are both qualified and willing to do their share.