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Ryno concerned about liability with police nursing program
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A $2,400 city check cut to the NAACP triggered a councilmember's inquiry last week that may lead to a more structured agreement affecting a volunteer nursing program that operates in affiliation with the Ceres Police Department.

The city has been affiliated with a nursing program that offers health screenings to indigent persons and those without insurance. The nursing program is operated by Daniel Lucky and it later evolved into the NAACP /Ceres Police Stop Gap Health Services which opened a clinic in January of 2012 in downtown Modesto. The NAACP stands for the National Association for the Advanced of Colored People.

Councilmember Linda Ryno flagged the payment and learned that the $2,400 amount did not come from the city's general fund but had been passed to the city by community groups which donated to cover the costs of the program. The money specifically came from groups that received services, included the Sikh community, Ceres Unified School District and Ceres Flea Market.

In her questioning, Ryno learned that the city only has a verbal agreement for the nursing services program and nothing in writing. She expressed a fear that the city could be liable if anyone were to file a lawsuit based on malpractice. City Attorney Mike Lyions said there is no formal written agreement between the city and NAACP and Dr. Daniel Lucky who runs it. He called the agreement an "informal oral agreement and past practice."

"I just think it's strange that we don't have a written agreement, that's all," said Ryno. Mayor Chris Vierra agreed, saying a written agreement should be hammered out.

Vice Mayor Ken Lane said the group's goal is to obtain its own 501 C3 non-profit organization status "to where it takes it out of the hands of the city." He said the program has affected about 400 families in Ceres.

"It's been a good thing but you're right some clean-up needs to be done," said Lane.

Ryno asked if the program "benefits Ceres itself." NAACP president Frank Johnson said that the services have been provided to "many, many citizens here in the city of Ceres" but noted the services are not exclusively for Ceres residents. Johnson said the program has benefitted police officers, school board members.

Johnson said "insurance is not an issue" and explained that Lucky, the registered nurses, the EMTs and NAACP all carry insurance to shield them against malpractice suits.

"Thus far there's been no problem whatsoever with anything," said Johnson, who noted that the stop-gap clinic falls under the Good Samaritan law.

The nursing program was embraced by Ceres Chief of Police Art deWerk seven years ago when Lucky came with the idea of offering preventative care "to those who are most at risk in the most vulnerable populations." With the city's backing, Lucky and a team of volunteer professionals began offering health screenings, such as blood pressure and cholesterol checks, to those who don't have insurance nor can afford regular visits to a primary care physician. Lucky offers those services at special events, farmers' and flea markets but has expanded to a Thursday clinic held in Modesto.

The program has provided services to about 22,000 patients, said Johnson, largely because of the establishment of a culturally based managed care nursing center in Modesto. The program specifically provides services to persons who have been denied insurance by the state for Medi-Cal, and undocumented or uninsured workers. Located at 608 13th Street, Modesto, the clinic is open Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Lucky said that "is in line with the Healthy People 2020 Project which mandates that as health-care providers, as leaders in the community we actually do something about the disparity in health-care access with regards to minority-based populations."

Services at the clinic are provided to persons of all races but must be members of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), of which all races and persons may belong, noted Lucky.