By Leslie Wolcott, Director of Communications for Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center
Ahoskie, North Carolina is the kind of place where you can invite everyone to an event at No Man’s Land on Main Street and they’ll know what you’re talking about. On Wednesday, July 29, the town of Ahoskie and Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center’s (RCCHC) Mobile Health Clinic invited the public to No Man’s Land for Wellness on Wheels. Older folks, young parents with kids, adults and children with their caregivers, friends and family all came by for a health screening and a greeting or three.
The unseasonably pleasant July weather didn’t hurt as up to 6-7 people at a time awaited their health checks. Many stopped by looking for Covid testing, but wound up doing a more comprehensive health screening once they arrived. In addition to the health screenings, patients were given a gift bag including at-home Covid rapid tests, masks, hand sanitizer, and $25 Food Lion gift cards.
Trinetta Campbell stopped by to get screened. She was driving down Main Street and saw the bus. She and the person with whom she works as a caretaker decided “let’s go get our blood pressure checked.” When they arrived, says Campbell, they saw that lot more screenings were available (including A1C, HIV testing, Flu, Strep, Hepatitis C) and completed the whole health screening. While for her, the gift card was certainly a draw to the event, Campbell, already a patient at RCCHC’s Colerain site, noted that it is important to have a mobile unit for folks who can’t get to the doctor and can just walk up for care.
Sherita Vaughan, Practice Manager for the mobile health clinic, noted that she’s excited to partner with others in the community for events like this. “We couldn’t have done this without Mayor White’s commitment to the community,” said Vaughan.
Weyling White, the Mayor of Ahoskie, had the idea for the partnership event. Weyling isn’t just Mayor White; he used to work at RCCHC. “I think that in moving from community health work” (he started as Hertford Health Access Program health access coordinator before moving up to Practice Administrator while at RCCHC) “where I was helping uninsured residents get resources they needed to get access to care with donated provider time, I learned to address transportation, links to services, and wraparound care. Doing that work showed me the real needs of the community, things like housing conditions, traumas related to being adjacent to crime, loss of household earner incomes. Talking those experiences from RCCHC I wanted to do something on a larger scale to affect policy to help people outside the clinic walls.”
Along with being Mayor, White is a participant in the Jim Bernstein Community Health Leadership Fellows program, which funds a project by each participant. Weyling decided to use his share to provide gift cards for the community at this event in partnership with the town of Ahoskie and RCCHC.
Also at the event was Integrated Family Services’ Nickie Roscoe. “I used to work at RCCHC, and I had a recent behavioral health trauma that happened to me,” Roscoe said. “Teaming up with RCCHC events and the mobile unit could help save a life.” Roscoe explained that Ahoskie police can call Integrated Family Services for a collaborative response to assist if someone is suicidal and can try to help deescalate. The group offers its services as “the eyes and ears of licensed clinical social workers. We can assess community members for mental health needs like hospitalization, or we can recommend therapy or psych or home care.”
Gabriela Alfaro, Nurse Manager of RCCHCs Mobile Health Clinic, said that at the event there were a few patients with extremely high blood pressure. “We were able to connect these patients with follow up appointments at RCCHC clinics for a nursing visit,” she said. “Most of these patients were either not taking their medications as directed or needed further instruction on diet, weight management, etc., so we provided them with education. They were grateful for the screening saying ‘if you don’t know what your numbers are how can you fix them?'” Alfaro noted that the mobile team also does “sometimes catch new diagnoses of prediabetes and connect these patients with providers.”
Despite being located in No Man’s Land, this event was a huge success—by 12:30 p.m. the team had seen over 25 patients—and handed out all their grocery gift cards. Alfaro says planning and attendance take time. “Our initial events have been slow but definitely don’t get discouraged. People need to build a trust for the clinic. The more you are out in the community the more trust you build with the people. So it’s important to build the team with a staff that’s integrated in different aspects of the surrounding community to better gauge what the community needs as far as resources, incentives, and medical care. You definitely have to offer incentives at the beginning to try to build a good rapport. Our [Wellness on Wheels] event definitely reflected this.”