GREAT BARRINGTON -- Volunteers in Medicine of Great Barrington has won a $20,000 grant from the Massachusetts Medical Society and Alliance Charitable Foundation.

The money will support the first year of a medical education program focusing on chronic diseases, according to Richard Galla, media relations manager at the MMAACF.

This is the first year of a two-year grant, with the expectation that a second grant of $15,000 will fund the second year of the program.

This grant will break new ground for VIM, according board Chairman Arthur Peisner.

"VIM Berkshires hopes to create a template that can be used by other VIM clinics in our network and beyond," Peisner said. "Shared medical appointments [in which a patient gets treatment and a more comprehensive package of information on his or her condition] are a new concept in management of chronic conditions. We hope this model will enable us to provide quality care while maximizing the contributions of our volunteer clinicians."

VIM currently uses the services of 80-100 volunteers, including more than 40 clinicians and eight full and part-time staff members.

Since opening 10 years ago, VIM has provided free health care services to more than 2,100 uninsured patients.

The funding will enable VIM to expand the participation of many potential volunteer specialists. Patients will be able to participate in 90-120-minute educational sessions with five to 12 participants in each session.


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The hope, according to VIM co-medical director Matt Mandel, is that these sessions will help patients improve their quality of life and reduce their disease burden in an efficient and supportive way.

The grant is one of 12 the foundation has made for 2014, totaling $196,500 to agencies across the state, according to Galla.

VIM has earned a total of eight previous grants from the foundation, totaling $150,000.

The VIM was founded in 2004, according to Mills, It is the 30th VIM clinic nationally, and the first in Massachusetts.

VIM Berkshires provides free care to income-qualified uninsured and underinsured residents age 19-64 in the Berkshire region.

The Massachusetts Medical Society and Alliance Charitable Foundation is the supporting organization the Massachusetts Medical Society, a statewide association of physicians.