Wellness in brief: WCRM offers Code Purple shelter

CommunityLab testing facility
CLOSE TO HOME: On Dec. 10, members of the media toured CommunityLab, a testing facility established by Sanesco International in Arden, to learn about the company’s commitment to focus the majority of the lab’s capacity on COVID-19 testing for WNC residents. Sanesco CEO Hector Romero, center, explained that backing from Dogwood Health Trust supports that local work. Photo courtesy of Sanesco

Western Carolina Rescue Ministries to provide Code Purple shelter

Asheville residents experiencing homelessness will have a place to ride out the coldest nights of winter thanks to Western Carolina Rescue Ministries. The nonprofit has partnered with the First Congregational Church on Oak Street to offer Code Purple shelter for up to 50 people when nighttime temperatures drop below freezing.

The church represents the only such overnight facility in Asheville; last winter, other Code Purple shelters included the Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministry Veteran’s Quarters and Steadfast House. Concerns over the spread of COVID-19 have led many organizations to alter their approach to serving the unhoused.

Micheal Woods, WCRM’s executive director, says everyone seeking Code Purple shelter must wear a mask, follow federal COVID-19 guidelines and pass a temperature check. Those with a fever or other coronavirus symptoms will be referred to Buncombe County for testing and will be housed in one of the hotel rooms reserved by the county for isolation as they await test results.

Woods notes that, while his organization served an average of 10 clients on Code Purple nights in 2019, that number represents women and children only. ABCCM had previously provided overnight shelter to men, so demand for the WCRM facility will likely be greater this year.

“The big thing that we are in need of at the Code Purple shelter will be extra blankets as the season continues,” Woods says of how Asheville residents can best support WCRM’s efforts. “If the need arises, we may have to open an additional location and we will have to purchase more cots and mats.”

Meanwhile, a warming center hosted by housing nonprofit Homeward Bound at the Central United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 27 Church St., operates weekdays 8 a.m.-noon when wind chill temperatures are in the 50s or higher. On colder days, the center remains open until 3 p.m. The facility serves up to 50 individuals at a time and uses masks and physical distancing to comply with COVID-19 guidance.

Mission Hospital regains top Leapfrog safety rating

For the first time since its 2019 takeover by Nashville-based HCA Healthcare, Asheville’s Mission Hospital received an “A” designation in the biannual Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade rankings. The grade reflects the hospital’s performance on 27 safety measures, including rates of postoperative infections and patient falls.

Mission’s grade had dropped to “C” a year ago, and its last “A” rating was achieved in spring of 2018, when the hospital was still under local nonprofit ownership. The only other Mission facility covered by Leapfrog, Mission Hospital McDowell in Marion, remained at a “B” rating, down from the “A” reported in fall 2019.

“This recognition from Leapfrog is thanks to our thousands of caregivers across Mission Hospital who work tirelessly every day to improve care to our patients,” said Chad Patrick, Mission Hospital’s CEO. “They are a truly committed, caring and highly skilled team of professionals.”

Other regional hospitals reported mixed safety results. AdventHealth Hendersonville received an “A” grade — its ninth consecutive rating — as did Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville and the Haywood Regional Medical Center in Clyde. But the Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva received a “B” grade, and Western North Carolina’s lowest score of “C” went to the Rutherford Regional Medical Center in Rutherfordton.

Report outlines health challenges for Black transgender Southerners

The Asheville-based nonprofit Campaign for Southern Equality published a new report regarding the health of Black transgender people throughout the South. The document, based on survey responses from 131 participants, describes considerable difficulties for that population, particularly in mental health.

Black trans respondents reported higher rates of depression, anxiety, drug abuse, self-harm and suicidal ideation than did a broad sample of LGBTQ Southerners. The percentage of Black trans individuals living with HIV is higher than that in the broader LGBTQ population; the group also reports worse experiences with health care providers.

“As a transgender leader in the South, I know how strong and resilient transgender people are — but to read about respondents’ struggles with mental health challenges, depression and anxiety and getting access to quality, affirming care breaks my heart,” said Ivy Hill, the Campaign for Southern Equality’s community health program director. “Everyone should be able to access the care they need, and we must work to strategically to implement both anti-racist and trans-affirming health care practices.”

New on the block

  • CommunityLab, a high-end molecular and diagnostic testing laboratory operated by Sanesco International, will allocate most of its resources to support the demand for COVID-19 testing in Western North Carolina. The local focus is supported by funding from Dogwood Health Trust.
  • The Buncombe County Courthouse now offers a sensory mindfulness garden, installed in early November by Warren Wilson College students. The garden is open to all courthouse visitors, and those involved in the county’s Veterans Treatment Court will use the space as a way to improve mental health.
  • Pardee UNC Health Care in Hendersonville received three ventilators and five hospital beds from Dogwood Health Trust to boost its treatment capacity in response to an increase in COVID-19 cases. The donation brings Pardee’s ICU ventilator capacity up to 27; as of press time, 189 ventilators were available throughout all of Western North Carolina’s hospitals, with 66 in use. 
  • AdventHealth Hendersonville named Chris Taulbee director of physician services and Paul B. Johnson director of practice operations for several AdventHealth Medical Group locations in Western North Carolina.
  • Hendersonville-based Yoga and Massage has opened a new location at 1620 Brevard Road in Laurel Park. The facility features four massage rooms, a non-heated yoga studio and free parking.

Community kudos

  • Jodi Grabowski, behavioral health system coordinator for the Henderson County Department of Public Health, was chosen from among 144 applicants as one of three North Carolina participants for Emory University’s Public Health Leadership Institute. The program offers advanced training for government health workers to tackle social determinants of health.
  • Matt Young, a nurse with AdventHealth Hendersonville, received the DAISY Award in recognition for displaying “uncommon compassion” toward patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The N.C. State Veterans Home – Black Mountain was designated as a “Best Nursing Home” by U.S. News & World Report, placing it among the top fifth of all skilled nursing facilities in the country.
  • Mission Hospital became the only Magnet-certified facility in Western North Carolina. Administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the designation denotes “rigorous standards for nursing excellence” and has been awarded to fewer than 10% of U.S. hospitals.
  • Mission Hospital also was honored for its heart services by Fortune and IBM Watson Health. “This 2021 award marks the 15th year that Mission Hospital has been recognized by IBM Watson Health as a Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospital,” said Dr. William D. Kuehl, Mission’s chief of cardiology. 
  • Brevard-based Gaia Herbs was awarded the gold medal in the wellness products category for Inc.’s inaugural Best in Business list, which recognizes small and medium-sized privately held businesses that have made a positive impact.
  • The Minority Diabetes Prevention Program, a joint project of Buncombe County Health and Human Services, the YMCA of WNC and the Asheville-Buncombe Institute for Parity Achievement, was fully recognized by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, participants in CDC-recognized programs reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58%

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