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Mobile Health Clinic. (Provided by Ohio University)

Mobile Clinic assists underserved people

The Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, or HCOM, offers a traveling mobile clinic to provide health care services to Ohio University students and people in 24 other Ohio counties. 

As the mobile extension of the Heritage Community Clinic, the mobile clinic offers a wide variety of services to assist underserved Southeast Ohio residents and especially those who are uninsured or underinsured. 

Lisa Forster, HCOM's chief communication officer, said the mobile unit helps those who do not have access or transportation to a traditional health provider.

“Access to reliable transportation can be a challenge for some individuals, and for those who live remotely in areas with limited health services, the lack of transportation can make it difficult for them to get to the care they need,” Forster said in an email. 

According to a previous Post report, the Heritage Community Clinic is funded through grants, local foundations, state government, individual donors and OU-HCOM. 

The inside of the mobile clinic is set up similarly to a stationary clinic. It has two exam rooms, a lobby waiting area and a restroom, Dawn McKee, registered nurse, said. 

Carole Merckle, the assistant director of the Community Health Programs and Area Health Education Center, said not many OU students use the mobile clinic as a resource because students are typically insured. 

“We typically provide health screenings to about 1,400 adults every year, more than 7,500 children receive vision screenings and 7,500 kids are given hearing screenings,” Forster said in an email. 

Carrie Johnson, registered nurse, wants to implement more women’s services for younger women to take advantage of at HCOM’s mobile clinic. 

The mobile clinic will be expanding its services to offer contraceptive care, contraceptive counseling and some sexually transmitted diseases, or STI, screenings, Johnson said. 

Merckle said a food pantry is also available at the Heritage Community Clinic. The pantry provides people with food, hygiene products and other everyday necessities that individuals may need. Merckle makes it a point in the mobile unit to ensure that the patient is treated well in all aspects of their life. 

“They don't care what their blood sugar (or) blood pressure is if they don't have their basic needs met,” Merckle said. “Our goal is to address not only the medical needs but then social determinants of health needs.”

Merckle also said obtaining food and hygiene products can become expensive, so she writes grants to obtain these needs for her patients. Similarly, other funders and partners, like the Southeast Ohio Food Bank, help the mobile clinic get these resources, too. 

“We're going to expand our clinic and be part of the Southeast Ohio food bank,” Merckle said. “We will be opening … a food pantry that will be open to not only our patients but Athens County residents as well.”

Merckle reflected on the significant role the mobile clinic plays in community members' lives and how making a difference for others is what drives staff members. 

“It makes you feel good at the end of the day, no matter how crazy the day was because you know you're making a difference with people's lives and their overall health and wellness,” Merckle said. “Our mission and vision is wellness for all. We truly all believe that wellness for all is what we strive for and … that health care is a right, not a privilege; everybody should have access to health care.”


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