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Share Our Selves

CATCHING UP WITH...

December 08, 1999

Amy R. Spurgeon

COSTA MESA -- Five years after the county went bankrupt, one local

organization and its visitors are still feeling some effects of the loss.

"The county chose to cut the programs for those least empowered -- the

poor people," said Karen Harrington, director of development for Costa

Mesa's Share Our Selves, a free medical, dental, food and clothing

center. "SOS is their voice."

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After the bankruptcy, many of the first people to be let go were county

social services personnel. Waiting room attendance at clinics around the

county skyrocketed from 60 to 150 people, Share Our Selves officials

said.

It was a time of frustration for many county social service agencies,

including Share Our Selves.

The privately funded, nonprofit organization rallied with other

health-care advocates in an attempt to get more than 130 positions

reinstated.

The county also cut off certain medical supplies to the agency, including

antibiotics. Share Our Selves paid for the items in order to continue

providing general care to the public. The county still has not reinstated

Share Our Selves for the supplies.

The agency started distributing food and financial aid in 1970 to

indigent people in the area. The free medical and dental clinics began in

1984 and 1987, respectively.

Mary Moyer, clinic nurse manager, said medical services for the poor have

become increasingly difficult to obtain since the bankruptcy. Since Share

Our Selves is a "last resort" clinic, many county residents who do not

qualify for other state or county medical programs arrive on the center's

doorstep.

The clinic helps more than 6,000 people, each of whom visit the clinic

twice a year.

"I have no insurance, so I come here," said Althea Johnson, 40, of Costa

Mesa. The clip for her dentures broke and she came to Share Our Selves

for dental services on Tuesday.

Juan Baltista of Costa Mesa, 36, got up at 5 a.m. Tuesday to get in line

at SOS for free dental care. On the first Tuesday of the month, people

from all over Orange County travel to SOS to sign up for dental service.

The clinic takes on 50 new patients per month.

Possibly the biggest current setback for SOS is the fight over tobacco

settlement funds designated to the county. Initially, the Board of

Supervisors planned to spend the settlement money on the county's debt

and the building of jails. But protests from the health-care community

have prompted closed-door sessions with county supervisors.

The allocation of the $912 million the county is to receiveover the next

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