Wellness roundup: VA debuts ambulance for veterans

VEHICLE FOR VETS: The Charles George VA Medical Center has a new ambulance for post-hospitalization transportation for veterans. It will be staffed by, clockwise from left, Dereck Lindsey, Brittney Letterman, Ricky Brown and Thomas Dunn. Photo courtesy of CGVAMC

On Feb. 13, Charles George VA Medical Center began operating a new ambulance to transport veterans to and from health care services. The Veteran Medical Transport ambulance will provide transportation between facilities and after hospitalization; it is not an ambulance operating in the Buncombe County 911 system.

The VMT is staffed by emergency medical technicians and paramedics who are able to provide services from basic life support to advanced medical care. The ambulance service aims to provide daily care when staffing increases.

For more information, contact Charles George VA Medical Center at 828-298-7911.

Vaya Total Care to launch in April

Vaya Health, a public managed care organization, will soon be offering Vaya Total Care, a behavioral health and intellectual/developmental disabilities tailored plan for Medicaid members and state-funded services recipients.

Beginning April 1, Medicaid beneficiaries with serious mental illness, serious emotional disturbance, severe substance use disorder, I/DD or traumatic brain injury can receive assistance with physical health care services, mental health services, pharmacy benefits, a dedicated care manager and other services.

Qualifying North Carolina residents who have no insurance or are underinsured can also access I/DD, TBI and other services.

For more information about Medicaid and state-funded services at Vaya, call 800-962-9003 or visit vayahealth.com.

Grant supports study of sidewalks, bike paths

Asheville and Hendersonville are among the cities receiving grants from the N.C. Department of Transportation to determine the feasibility of new bike paths, sidewalks, paved trails and greenways in their communities.

Over $2 million in grants will be used to study the feasibility of new paths in 19 cities and towns; an additional $388,000 in DOT funding will be used to study potential paths in six counties. According to a press release from NCDOT, feasibility studies provide an environmental review and develop implementation strategies.

More information is available at avl.mx/cf4.

Senior Games registration open

Registration is open for the Asheville-Buncombe 2023 Senior Games, which will take place in Asheville April 1-May 18. The Senior Games are run by N.C. Senior Games, the largest senior Olympic program in the country. Events include pickleball, croquet, bowling, miniature golf, cycling and swimming. Participants from outside the local area will also be accepted. To register, contact Colt Miller at Asheville Parks & Recreation at 828-707-2376 or cmiller@ashevillenc.gov. A schedule of events is available at avl.mx/cex.

Town hall on toxic exposure set for April 1

A town hall about military toxic exposure and PACT Act disability benefits will be held 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at A-B Tech Asheville Conference Center, 16 Fernihurst Drive. Veterans and their families are encouraged to attend.

The town hall will include presentations about the assumed health effects of military toxic exposure, such as from burn pits, Agent Orange, radiation, lead, asbestos and other toxic substances. The PACT Act is a new law that provides disability benefits to veterans who have presumptive conditions related to toxic exposure, as well as their beneficiaries. (Toxic exposure screenings are available at VA facilities around the country. More information about the screenings and benefits under the PACT Act is available at avl.mx/cf1.)

The Veterans Benefits Administration, the Charles George VA Medical Center and other organizations will have representatives on hand to answer questions about the PACT Act. The town hall is hosted by the CGVAMC, Vietnam Veterans of America/NC State Council, and Winston-Salem VA Regional Office.

More information about the town hall is available at avl.mx/cf0.

Renovation at neuro health center

Black Mountain Neuro-Medical Treatment Center, a state-operated treatment facility for adults with Alzheimer’s disease, progressive dementia or brain injuries, will undergo a renovation in June. The center’s renovation will increase resident capacity and privacy in rooms. More information is available at avl.mx/cew.

Movers and shakers

  • Anthony Del Toro, chief executive officer of Western North Carolina AIDS Project, announced Feb. 9 that he will be leaving the nonprofit on July 1. WNCAP’s board of directors is currently seeking applicants for the position. A job description is posted at avl.mx/cf2.
  • In January, Gov. Roy Cooper appointed UNC Pardee Health Care radiation oncologist Dr. S. Yaseen Zia to the N.C. Advisory Committee on Cancer Coordination and Control. The advisory committee seeks to increase access to support and treatment for cancer survivors and their loved ones. Zia has been with Pardee since 2018.
  • Mark D. Constantine is joining Dogwood Health Trust as senior vice president of community investment. Before joining Dogwood, Constantine was president and CEO of Richmond Memorial Health Foundation in Richmond, Va., for seven years.

Mark your calendars

  • Down Dog Yoga Studio & Dog Bar holds donation-based community yoga classes every Monday 6:30-7:30 p.m. The minimum requested donation is $8 per person, and all proceeds are donated to a local nonprofit. Classes are trauma-informed and taught by LGBTQ- and BIPOC-informed instructors. For more information visit downdogavl.com.
  • The Asheville Parks & Recreation Department and Bountiful Cities, a nonprofit that teaches sustainable agriculture skills, are hosting a free educational event and maintenance session for George Washington Carver Edible Park from 3:30-5:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 24. The park contains a vegetable garden and over 40 fruit and nut trees. For more information, call 828-350-2058.
  • A workshop on psychedelic preparation for beginners will be held 2-4 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 26, at Mountain Magic Studio, 3 Louisiana Ave. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at avl.mx/cf3.
  • The sexual violence prevention nonprofit Our VOICE will host a discussion of the memoir Know My Name by Chanel Miller, followed by a guided tour of the Buncombe County Family Justice Center, 35 Woodfin St., 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 15. The book club welcomes individuals ages 16 and older. Registration is required at avl.mx/cfa or by calling 828-250-4700.
  • A Gay-Straight Alliance Summit for LGBTQIA+ youths will be held 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, April 22, at Warren Wilson College, 701 Warren Wilson Road, Swannanoa. All presentations will be held by high school and college-age young adults. The summit is free for anyone under age 24; adults in youth-serving roles and parents of LGBTQIA+ children are asked to donate $25. For more information, visit givebutter.com/GSASummit2023.
  • Green Built Alliance is hosting an Earth Day 5K at 8 a.m. Saturday, April 22, at Carrier Park in Asheville. Early registration through Sunday, March 12, is $33 per person; after March 12, registration is $40 per person. All proceeds will be donated to Appalachian Offsets, Green Built Alliance’s carbon offsets program. To register visit avl.mx/cev.
  • Blue Ridge Hiking Co. is hosting an introduction to backpacking trip Friday-Saturday, April 21-22. The trip spans 7 miles in Pisgah National Forest and is designed for hikers without previous backpacking experience. The cost is $480 per person and includes tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, trekking poles and food. For more information, visit avl.mx/ceu.

UPDATE, March 6, 2023: This article has been updated to state the correct hosts of the town hall about military toxic exposure and PACT Act. 


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About Jessica Wakeman
Jessica Wakeman is an Asheville-based reporter for Mountain Xpress. She has been published in Rolling Stone, Glamour, New York magazine's The Cut, Bustle and many other publications. She was raised in Connecticut and holds a Bachelor's degree in journalism from New York University. Follow me @jessicawakeman

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