Health roundup: Henderson County rolls out new accessible buses

RIDE ON: Henderson County purchased six new buses in February to supplement existing transit routes. Each bus can hold 17 passengers, including space for two wheelchair users. Photo courtesy of Western Carolina Community Action

The wheels on Henderson County’s new buses are going round and round, to the tune of 80,000 projected passenger trips annually. In February, Henderson County and Apple Country Public Transit debuted six new 17-passenger buses, complete with electric lifts and space for two wheelchair users to ride comfortably.

The new fleet will supplement Western Carolina Community Action’s three existing bus routes in Henderson County. Funding for the expansion came from a combination of Federal Transit Administration grants and county funds.

Each bus runs on compressed natural gas and comes equipped with new fare boxes, message boards and technology to provide ridership data across all routes. Western Carolina Community Action will continue to use its existing fleet to provide transportation for seniors and residents with disabilities, as well as transportation to COVID-19 vaccination sites, medical appointments and rural transit service, the nonprofit notes in a press release.

Buncombe County’s paramedicine team works to break opioid cycle

In most instances, dialing 911 will summon a bevy of fire trucks, ambulances and police cars. But in Buncombe County, individuals dealing with substance overdoses can now ask for the Community Paramedic and Post Overdose response team, a pilot program committed to reducing overdose deaths.

The unit consists of three community paramedics, one mental health clinician, one peer support specialist and one program manager. As of Feb. 25, the team had connected 195 people who had experienced heroin and fentanyl overdoses with peer support resources. Of those individuals, 70 subsequently enrolled in an active rehabilitation facility, medication-assisted treatment or mental health program.  

“The model we would like to move toward is to be more engaged in mental health response, to provide wrap-around services with social workers and mental health specialists dispatched through our 911 call center to get the right services to the right patient at the right time,” Buncombe County Emergency Services Director Taylor Jones said in a press release. 

Need rises dramatically for WNC diaper bank 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly one in three American families struggled to purchase diapers for their little ones. That need ballooned with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Western North Carolina diaper bank Babies Need Bottoms. In 2020, the nonprofit saw demand increase by 393%. 

Last year, Babies Need Bottoms sent 300,000 diapers to roughly 8,500 children across the region. Monthly diaper distribution jumped from 5,000 in July 2019 to more than 18,000 by July 2020. And the need isn’t going away: The organization received requests for over 50,000 diapers in the first two months of 2021 alone.

“During the pandemic, Babies Need Bottoms initiated partnerships with mobile food delivery programs through MANNA FoodBank and the YMCA of WNC,” said Co-Executive Director Alicia Heacock in a press release. “One hundred percent of the time, if a family is struggling to afford food, they can’t afford diapers.”

Health happenings

  • Gibbins Advisors, the independent monitor overseeing HCA Healthcare’s compliance with the conditions outlined in the sale of Mission Health, will host an online webinar on Wednesday, April 7, at 5:30 p.m. Attendees can register at avl.mx/95h
  • April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. To raise awareness, Hendersonville nonprofit Safelight will distribute blue pinwheels from 4-6 p.m.  Wednesday, April 7 to symbolize prevention efforts across the community. The informal open house will be held at the Believe Child Advocacy Center, 722 Fifth Avenue W., Hendersonville. 
  • North Carolina’s Council on Developmental Disabilities is seeking feedback on its 2022-26 Five Year State Plan. A short public input survey (avl.mx/95i) will remain open through Wednesday, April 14. 
  • UNC Asheville’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute will host two free lectures on meditation for community members of all ages. On Monday, April 12, meditation teacher Bob Roth will discuss the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. And neuroscientist Fred Travis will take the virtual stage Monday, April 26, to discuss the brain’s response to meditation. To register, contact the Asheville Transcendental Meditation Center at 828-254-4350 or by emailing meditationasheville@tm.org.

Awards and accolades 

  • Henderson County is one of the healthiest counties in the state, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 2020 County Health Rankings. The report analyzes mortality and morbidity data, as well as health behaviors, clinical care options, social and economic factors and the physical environment. 
  • Haywood County Public Health welcomes Sarah Henderson as the department’s new health director. Already a Haywood County resident, Henderson joins the team following a stint as an assistant professor at Western Carolina University’s School of Nursing. Garron Bradish, Haywood’s interim health director, will continue to coordinate the county’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts. 
  • Vaya Health CEO Brian Ingraham was awarded the 2020 Director’s Award by the Hendersonvlle-based Marketing Association for Rehabilitation Centers. The award recognizes people “whose work, action or advocacy has made a lasting impact upon the economic and social quality of life for people with a disability or other disadvantage.” 
  • Four Seasons Home Care received the Best of Home Care — Leader in Excellence award from Home Care Pulse, the highest recognition offered by the caregiver feedback platform. “It is a clear reflection of the dedication we have to hiring and training the best caregivers to provide compassionate, quality care to our clients,” said Four Seasons director Mary Jo Powers in a press release. “We are proud to be the only home care agency in WNC to have achieved this honor.” 

    TOP TIER TEAM: Four Seasons Home Care was recently awarded the Best of Home Care — Leader in Excellence award from caregiver feedback platform Home Care Pulse. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons
  • AdventHealth Hendersonville’s Laboratory Services is now accredited by the College of American Pathologists. The federal government recognizes this accreditation as “being equal-to or more-stringent-than the government’s own inspection program,” according to a press release. 

COVID-19 response continues

  • Durham-based nonprofit VacCorps is looking for 200 local volunteers to support COVID-19 vaccination sites across Western North Carolina. Volunteers will help greet and check in patients, clean facilities, restock supplies and schedule appointments. For more information, visit avl.mx/96a.
  • The Hendersonville Health Department is now scheduling COVID-19 vaccinations over phone, text and email. The new process allows individuals to easily remove themselves from the waitlist if they are able to get a vaccine elsewhere. 
  • Individuals with high-risk medical conditions, those experiencing homelessness and incarcerated people are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine under Group 4 of the state’s vaccine rollout. All other essential workers will become eligible on Wednesday, April 7. 
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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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