Our views: Free clinic reaches out to neediest

Thumbs up - Medical Clinic

A free medical clinic for Thurston County residents lacking the resources to combat chronic disease has opened at the Union Gospel Mission in downtown Olympia. Thanks to the dedication of the mission and the 50 or so medical professional volunteers, about 50 low-income patients are being treated on an ongoing basis for potential life-threatening conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The need for such a clinic has never been greater, especially since a free drop-in clinic in Lacey had to shut its doors in March due to lack of funds. Officials stress that the new medical clinic is not a drop-in center – appointments are required. The demand for the service is so great, patients selected for treatment are almost like lottery winners. To succeed and sustain its services, the new clinic will need a steady infusion of donations and volunteer support from the South Sound medical community. The medical clinic for the chronically ill is just the latest program offered by the Union Gospel Mission as is works to minister to the poor and homeless. Other programs include alcohol and drug recovery programs, dental and vision clinics and delivery of some 60,000 meals a year. The clinic deserves continued community support so it can keep the doors open and the care flowing to those in critical need.

Thumbs up - 81st Brigade

Washington National Guard soldiers assigned to the 81st Brigade Combat Team are back home again after a one-year tour of duty in Iraq. Some 2,400 soldiers from this state were part of the deployment force sent overseas to support the Iraq War effort from August 2008 to August 2009. They have served their country well in a war zone where the battle lines are blurred and danger lurks on every road and around every corner. Last weekend’s Freedom Salute ceremony at the Red Lion Inn in Olympia recognized the sacrifices these citizen soldiers have made on behalf of their country. It was also a day of reacclimation training for the soldiers and their families to help them all transition back to civilian and family life disrupted by their call to duty. For some, the transition back to civilian life from active duty is a stressful one. These Washington National Guard soldiers are entitled to a fall suite of medical, mental health, career and financial resource counseling to ensure the return to their civilian lives is as smooth as possible.

Thumbs down - Marijuna law

The medical marijuana law approved by voters in this state in 1998 has led to inconsistent enforcement and confusing interpretation. The Washington law requires eligible medical marijuana users to grow their own or designate a caregiver to grow it for them. For many, that’s proven to be an unrealistic requirement, especially when they are too sick or too financially strapped to set up a successful growing operation. This has led to the creation of growing cooperatives and storefront dispensaries that have been tolerated in some communities and prosecuted in others.

The law needs further refinement, whether it be through court cases or the state Legislature. Last year, state lawmakers created guidelines for how much marijuana a patient is allowed – up to 15 plants and 24 ounces of dried marijuana. More work remains to create a production and delivery system that protects the rights of the patients, but doesn’t increase easy access to pot for recreational use.

Thumbs up - Marijuna law

Advocates for dog parks in Thurston County are finally making some headway. Thurston County officials plan to open a 6-acre area for dogs to roam freely under owner supervision in an area of the reclaimed Hawks Prairie landfill near Lacey. And City of Olympia officials have announced plans to fence off 1.6 acres of the 5.74-acre Sunrise Park on the city’s west side for use as a dog park. Dog parks have proven to be popular additions to community park systems in other Western Washington communities. With proper operating rules and self-policing by dog owners, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t work here in South Sound.