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Johnson Health Center hopes to reach new patients with mobile units
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Johnson Health Center hopes to reach new patients with mobile units

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With a new mobile medical unit and a dental unit on the way, Johnson Health Center is hoping to play an important role in delivering critical services and assisting the local community during the coronavirus-related public health emergency.

The mobile medical unit arrived at Johnson Health Center at the end of August and the mobile dental unit is expected to be delivered by the end of this month.

Taylor Cooke, associate director of patient engagement and outreach at JHC, said the goal of these units is to take services into communities that are underserved and may not have access to a health center or clinic.

The mobile unit, which Cooke said is similar to a utility van, has a restroom, lab station and exam room.

Due to not having enough staff at the center, the mobile unit is not up and running yet, she said, but she hopes it will be soon.

“So unfortunately right now we don’t have enough staff to get out into of the community, so we’re having to pull existing staff to run it,” she said. “And we’re currently working to hire people to actually solely operate and work on the mobile unit.”

Right now, the unit has only been used for some COVID-19 testing within the clinic.

She said any organizations interested in partnering with JHC’s mobile unit should reach out, as she is compiling a list of schools and organizations it will go to once there is enough staff to run it.

Once there is staff to run the unit, she said it will be used mostly for COVID-19 testing and administering related vaccines.

“We’ve also been in discussion with the schools to hopefully offer physicals, immunization update, and just general vaccines for students,” she said. “As well as with adults, we are going to be offering wellness visits and immunizations that they’re needing updates on.”

Though it’s parked now at the Johnson Health Center in Madison Heights, once up and running, it won’t stay in any particular place but will go where the community needs it.

“We’ll be working with community partners and other nonprofits to bring that to them and serve their clients or residents in the neighborhood with the dental unit,” she said.

The dental unit has been delayed but should be delivered in a month or so, Cooke said. Once that arrives, it will mainly stay at the organization’s Rustburg clinic but also will travel to area schools and community organizations.

“With that one we will be doing general dental services and screening as well as exams, cleaning, and X-rays,” she said.

JHC received $475,000 from the 2020 Expanding Capacity for Coronavirus Testing Supplemental Funding (ECT) to purchase the mobile medical unit as well as supplies, staffing and education.

JHC also was awarded an Oral Health Infrastructure Grant in 2019 for $300,000 to add a mobile dental unit to its services so the center can meet the dental service need in the community and elevate its current dental school program.

Both grants were from Health Resources and Services Administration, Cooke said.

Denny Huff, executive director of the Bedford Community Health Foundation, said the mobile medical unit benefits the most vulnerable communities in Bedford County as it’s a rural county.

“It’s really important to make sure that we get services to where the people are,” he said. “Transportation for many of them is an issue. So having this mobile unit is going to be a game changer.”

It’s harder to reach this population for dental services.

“And even just some of the preventative stuff. Just getting out and being able to meet folks where they are,” he said. “But whatever is offered is an initial connection for those individuals to be connected to a health services provider.”

Huff said once patients are connected to that provider, that provider then has the opportunity to build a relationship with the patient and can help get them into an office or connect them to a service closer to their location.

“We certainly appreciate Johnson Health Center for its presence in Bedford and the work that they do,” he said. “And we’re very excited to have the mobile unit here knowing what a difference it’s going to make in the lives of our citizens.”

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