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The recession has added extra hardship to those without health insurance. Many either avoid the doctor’s office until they’re too sick, or resort to expensive emergency care. But as Barry Simmons tells us, hundreds of uninsured patients in Los Angeles can now find help outside the hospital.

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SCRIPT:

(Locator: Glendale, California)

Inside the education building at First United Methodist Church near Los Angeles, Sylvia Lofftus and a team of volunteers transform an old Sunday school classroom into a one-of-a-kind health clinic.

Sylvia Lofftus: “Everything that’s here we give to our patients at no cost to them.”

Five years ago, Sylvia co-founded the clinic with Dr. Arbi Ghazarian—who was running out of space to treat patients for free.

Dr. Arbi Ghazarian, Clinic Co-founder: “What every human being deserves when it comes to medicine is good health care. That’s what we want to provide here. Ultimately, in God’s eyes, we’re all the same.”

Born and raised in Iran, Ghazarian says living through his country’s war with Iraq taught him the importance of sharing burdens.

Dr. Arbi Ghazarian, Clinic Co-founder: “Times were tough, and when times were tough people helped each other.”

Ghazarian says it’s why he spends each Tuesday night here leading an all-volunteer staff of doctors, nurses, and college students.

Cathy Bartoo, Church Volunteer: “So many of these people had jobs for years, and all of a sudden you lose your job and you lose your insurance … it’s a really scary situation.”

Yvonne is a diabetic who lost her job—and insurance—several years ago.

Yvonne, Patient: “It’s just really expensive, and this place has saved me—and saved my sanity.”

Dr. Arbi Ghazarian, Clinic Co-founder: “Anything can walk in our doors, so sometimes it’s tough, it’s challenging. Where would they be if there’s nothing like this? Either at home getting sicker, or an emergency room wasting resources.”

ER visits can cost $300. This clinic treats patients for about $14—a solution Sylvia says saves money and lives.

Sylvia Lofftus: “It’s like a mission. Not going to a foreign country to do this mission. I’m doing it right here in my own church.”

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In the five years since it’s been open, the clinic has saved patients—and taxpayers—hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Click for more information on the clinic. You can call Glendale First United Methodist Church at 818-243-2105, ext. 202.

Also, see: Church welcomes free health clinic

Posted: June 17, 2009