Savie Health opened its doors in June of 2022 as Santa Barbara County’s first and only free health clinic for the uninsured. The goal was to serve the needs for those who aren’t eligible or can’t afford health insurance, might fall through the cracks of government programs, and find even the sliding fee scale of such places as the Neighborhood Clinics to be beyond their means.
“For most of the patient population that we serve, paying anything can mean the difference between feeding their family dinner or having to skip a meal,” explained Executive Director Eryn Shugart. “Our clinic is available to anybody with low to moderate income who has no health insurance. We’re completely free of charge.”
Savie is the latest charitable project from Dr. Ahmad Nooristani, who more than a decade ago founded the SLO Noor Foundation to provide early intervention for the kind of patients he treated in his San Luis Obispo County practice whose chronic health conditions might have been mitigated with preventative care. When Dr. Nooristani began working as the chief hospitalist at the Lompoc Valley Medical Center in 2018, he found the same issues afflicting uninsured, often undocumented, patients showing up in the emergency room.
Savie Health, which is named after Nooristani’s daughter, opened near the Medical Center just 15 months ago. If there was ever a doubt about the need, the response in that short time has certainly put those questions to bed.
“We’ve had 550 unique patients, and more than 1,100 patient visits,” said Shugart, a veteran fundraiser for Santa Barbara nonprofits who previously worked with Santa Barbara Education Foundation, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, and Storyteller Children’s Center. “They see our volunteer physicians or part-time nurse practitioners and physician assistants. A big percentage of them had gone without any healthcare for years and many have been diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, asthma and other chronic conditions that can become very serious when they’re not treated.”
Savie doesn’t ask for proof of income nor any other documents, easing the fears of farmworkers and other immigrants who have good reason based upon past experience to avoid any sort of governmental assistance that might be available.
“We also get a lot of part-time workers who maybe just need to address anxiety or other mental health issues,” Shugart said. “If anybody doesn’t have access to health care then it’s not possible for them to be health equity. The services that our clinic provides help the population that we serve move further on the spectrum towards health equity.”
While equity is at the heart of Savie’s mission, its mission of providing healthcare to those in need also makes long term economic sense, as untreated conditions become chronic afflictions that can send the patients to the emergency room.
“It costs something like $40 to treat a patient in an office with preventative care, and about $400,000 to treat that same patient in the hospital if they’ve had a stroke or heart attack,” Shugart said. “That is covered by Emergency Medi-Cal, which means it’s paid for by taxpayers. So, I really think his goal is more benevolent than it is like saving taxpayers money.”
The clinic has had a strong first 15 months since its launch, with six medical specialists willing to see their patients at no cost at their own offices, including a cardiologist, ENT, ophthalmologist, urologist, and gastroenterologist, all joining Savie’s on-site staff. But much more is needed to meet the need, Shugart said. “We’re trying to add additional services as quickly as possible.”
While the clinic currently pays for its patients’ lab work and imaging, a grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation has allowed Savie to purchase some of its own laboratory equipment and begin the process of being licensed as a laboratory. But more funding is needed.
Along those lines, Savie Health’s Thanks for Giving luncheon “Honoring Heroes in Healthcare” is a significant fundraiser and a wonderful way to support its efforts as well as to get acquainted with the organization in person. The luncheon takes place 11:30 am – 1:30 pm on Saturday, November 4, at Pico Los Alamos, featuring a gourmet multi-course meal complete with wine pairings prepared by the restaurant renowned for its innovative farm-to-table cuisine. The afternoon also features entertainment, a silent auction, and a fundraising raffle.
The heroes being honored are Ashley Costa, Executive Director at Lompoc Valley Community Healthcare Organization, and Lompoc Valley Medical Center itself. They will be recognized for their contributions towards Savie Health’s success during its first year of operations. Jon Clark, President of the Bower Foundation and a supporter of Savie Health, serves as the event emcee. Dr. Melissa Smith, the Director of Health Equity Initiatives at UCSB and lead author of Hesperian’s book Health Actions for Women: Practical Strategies to Mobilize for Change, will give the keynote address, focusing on women’s healthcare provides equity in the field in these challenging times.
Tickets start at $95, and a number of sponsorships are available. Get details online at https://saviehealth.org/events.
“For both individuals and organizations, it’s a great way to align your name with a really critical cause – the good health of all members of our community,” Shugart said. “And it’s going to be a great event.”
Eryn Shugart, PhD, Executive Director
Executive Director: Eryn Shugart, PhD
Our mission is to provide free medical, behavioral health, dental and vision care to uninsured adults in Santa Barbara County and beyond regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, immigration status, religion, or sexual orientation.
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We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s director of development and/or Executive Director.
I was a little skeptical before coming to my appointment at Savie Health Clinic, but after my appointment and to my surprise, the outcome was better than I expected it to be. This clinic is exactly what any one without health insurance needs! My health care concern was addressed at no cost to me. I now have peace of mind knowing that I am in the hands of a health care provider caring for my health.
Make Healthcare Free, Forever
Savie Health needs your help to not only continue its crucial work in providing free medical care in Santa Barbara County, but more importantly, to broaden the scope to include dental services.
To accomplish this and long-term sustainability, Savie Health is raising money to create a permanent endowment. The nonprofit invites you to make a Founding Donation of $5,000, supporting the only permanent and full-time free clinic in Santa Barbara County.
To donate and learn more about Savie Health, please visit www.saviehealth.org.
James S. Bower Foundation
Roy & Ida Eagle Foundation
Direct Relief/Teva Pharmaceuticals
Williams Corbett Foundation
California Wellness Foundation