Thousands get health care at KeyArena at largest free clinic in the state

Thousands get health care at KeyArena at largest free clinic in the state

For the fifth year, thousands of people accessed free health, dental and vision care at KeyArena in Seattle.

The Seattle/King County Clinic is the largest free clinic in the state.

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For the last four days, KeyArena was transformed. Dental chairs lined the ground floor of the arena and healthcare professionals volunteered their services to make sure people who need care get it -- for free.

“I'm overwhelmed with gratitude,” Lori Friedman said.

The sheer effort of the logistics alone wasn't lost on Friedman, who works as an intermittent employee at Seattle Center.

“All of these people volunteer their weekend, their time that they could be spending with their families. And they're out here helping homeless people like myself,” Friedman added.

Medical director Dr. Claudia Finkelstein says it's about breaking barriers. No identification or proof of immigration status is necessary to access care.

The clinic, which is in its fifth year, expects to serve as many as 4,000 people.

“What this says is the need is great and it's not only for people who you think are homeless or severely mentally ill. They are people who are working jobs not at the top of the income scale,” Finkelstein explained.

Jesus Caro works in construction. He recently broke his glasses and needs to get a new pair. It's his second year attending the clinic.

“Oh, it’s good. People, not everybody have a chance to get insurance,” Caro said. “So it's good for the people.”

Julia Colson came up with the idea for the Seattle/King County Clinic.

“We never knew it would grow into this,” Colson said.

She said the goal is to connect folks to care after the clinic is over and, ultimately, make it so clinics like this don't have to exist.

“We want to fix the greater system so that we could put ourselves out of business,” Colson added.

The clinic is usually held in October, but it had to be moved up a month because of upcoming renovations at KeyArena. Because of the renovations, the clinic also has to sit out next year. Organizers are still trying to nail down a temporary location for the spring of 2020, but the good news is that the arena's new owners have committed to hosting the event once the renovations are done.