Buncombe County debuts new mobile health RV

OUTREACH: Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Carrier Park June 13 for the recreation vehicle that will serve as its new mobile health unit. Photo by Caleb Johnson

The Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services Department of Public Health held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Carrier Park on June 13 for the recreation vehicle that will serve as its new mobile health unit.

Public Health’s focus is reaching low-income, historically underserved or rural communities, Public Health nurse supervisor Sue Hanlon told the assembled crowd.

The department previously operated a mobile health unit out of a van, which was three times smaller than the new RV. The 25-foot RV includes two examination rooms, a bathroom and a table for phlebotomy (drawing blood). It is also air-conditioned.

Services on the mobile health unit include rapid testing for HIV and hepatitis C; gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis testing; vaccinations; distribution of COVID-19 tests; tests for fentanyl and xylazine (also known as “tranq,” a sedative used as an additive in drugs); Narcan, the overdose reversal drug; antibiotic treatment for syphilis; and family planning services.

Isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic incentivized Public Health to increase community outreach, particularly COVID-19 vaccinations, Public Health Director Dr. Ellis Matheson told Xpress. BCDHHS purchased the new unit with federal and state funding received during the pandemic. The RV’s team of five is funded through 2025, she says.

The mobile health unit will operate daily on weekdays and attend night and weekend events, Matheson says. A schedule can be found at avl.mx/dbo.

SPACIOUS INTERIOR: The new Buncombe County Public Health RV includes two examination rooms, a bathroom and a table for phlebotomy. Photo by Caleb Johnson

Mission removed from ‘immediate jeopardy’

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS) informed Mission Health CEO Chad Patrick in a letter dated June 11 that it has removed the “immediate jeopardy” designation from Mission Hospital and Asheville Surgery Center.

A letter from Melissa Foreman, acute and continuing care branch manager of the Atlanta survey and enforcement division at CMMS, says based on the findings of the N.C. State Survey Agency’s visit on May 23, the hospital has been deemed in compliance with the Medicare Conditions of Participation. Foreman’s letter can be read at avl.mx/dtn.

The status change enables Mission Hospital and Asheville Surgery Center to continue to provide services under the Medicare program.

Following a December review of the hospital, Asheville Watchdog reported in February that CMMS had informed Mission Hospital it was in “immediate jeopardy.” In response to that designation, it was required to submit a plan of correction with specific measures to address deficiencies.

Mission Health, including Mission Hospital, was purchased by Nashville-based HCA Healthcare for $1.5 billion in 2019.

YWCA Asheville pool closure

YWCA Asheville announced this month it is temporarily closing its pool beginning Friday, June 28, to address maintenance needs, including repairs to the pool ceiling. Other programming will continue while the pool is closed, including access to gym facilities and group classes. YWCA Asheville seeks fundraising support for the pool repairs.

For more information, visit avl.mx/dto or contact advancement@ywcaofasheville.org.

Summer meals for kids available

A nutritious lunch and an afternoon snack are available for all children ages 18 and younger this summer through Buncombe County Schools Nutrition. Six schools and two libraries will provide food to children on-site. Hours for lunch and snacks will vary by location. To find the closest meal site, text FOOD or COMIDA to 304-304 or visit avl.mx/dtm. No registration, application or ID is required. Participants are encouraged to check their local school district’s website to verify locations and hours.

Mental health for food and beverage workers

Several groups are collaborating on building a peer network within the food and beverage industry for mental health resources. Partners include: nonprofit All Souls Counseling; mental wellness service MindWell Consulting; associate professor of health and wellness at UNC Asheville Laura Jones; and the Linked4Life Foundation. Linked4Life was founded by Bear’s Smokehouse co-owner Cheryl Antoncic.

Participating food and beverage establishments can have an employee receive mental health first aid training to become a volunteer peer advocate for employees. This peer advocate can direct colleagues to mental health resources. Apply to become a peer advocate at avl.mx/dtx.

For more information, visit avl.mx/dty.

Senior primary care opens

CenterWell Senior Primary Care opened its first location in April at 105 River Hills Road, Suite A. CenterWell features chairs that convert into examination tables, wheelchair-enabled weight scales and other apparatuses to address the needs of older patients. Medical staff members are trained with a focus on senior health, according to a press release.

CenterWell is a subsidiary of health insurance provider Humana. CenterWell locations accept original Medicare as well as Medicare Advantage.

CenterWell Patton Avenue, a second location in Asheville, will open in the fall at an address to be determined, says Humana spokesperson Lisa Ferguson.

Safelight welcomes service dog

Service dog Foley joined Hendersonville-based Safelight, a nonprofit that provides support for survivors of sexual violence, in May.

He works full time at Safelight under the care of his lead handler, Associate Director Susan Huter, and Program Director Dana Despradel, says Executive Director Lauren Wilkie.

Canine Companions, a national organization that trains service dogs, trained Foley for two years as a facility dog before he joined Safelight. The 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever works with a handler to participate in structured therapies and social interactions at health care and social service locations. Foley knows over 40 commands, including turning on lights and opening and closing doors. He can also cuddle with people to help reduce anxiety and regulate breathing.

Sunrise drop-in center opens

Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness, a nonprofit community recovery organization, opened its new drop-in center at 209 Tunnel Road in June. The center is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., and will host recovery support groups, movie screenings and wellness events.

For more information, visit avl.mx/d56.

Grant awarded for mosquito study

Western Carolina University environmental health sciences professor Brian Byrd and chemistry and physics professor Scott Huffman received a grant from NCInnovation to study mosquitoes that carry viruses.

Byrd and Huffman are researching the use of spectroscopy (which measures the absorption of light in different matter) to analyze vibrational signals in Aedes mosquitoes. The team is developing tools to assess whether these mosquitoes are carrying either the Zika virus or dengue, which are spread by mosquito bites. Aedes mosquitoes are found in the southeastern and western U.S., according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

NCInnovation grants seek to encourage research at North Carolina’s public universities.

For more information, visit avl.mx/dtp.

Community kudos

  • The UNC Asheville — UNC Gillings Master of Public Health program awarded its first jointly conferred MPH degree in May to six students. The program has worked in partnership with Mountain Area Health Education Center, a health care training facility, since 2019.
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner Kristen Roach joined AdventHealth Hendersonville Medical Group Pediatrics in Hendersonville.

Mark your calendars

  • Nonprofit Our VOICE will hold a volunteer training session Saturday, June 29, 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m., for people who want to provide emotional support on the 24/7 crisis line or offer hospital accompaniment to survivors of assault. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old, have reliable transportation and a reliable cellphone and complete a 20-hour advocate training before taking shifts. For more information, visit avl.mx/dtl.
  • WellSpring Wellness Center, 960 Tunnel Road, will hold a breathwork circle for women ages 18 and older Sunday, June 30, 1-3 p.m. Tickets are $30 and are available at avl.mx/dtg.
  • Umoja Health, Wellness and Justice Collective will offer free acupuncture for Black people, Indigenous people and people of color Wednesdays, July 10 and 31, noon-4 p.m., at 411 N. Louisiana Ave., Suite E. Participants will receive a free, 30-minute acupuncture treatment on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants should bring a light blanket.
  • The Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services will hold a free, drop-in opioid reversal training Friday, Aug. 2, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., at 40 Coxe Ave. Participants will learn about the signs of an opioid overdose and how to administer the opioid reversal drug naloxone. At the end of the training, participants will receive a free Narcan kit while supplies last. Contact Mitchell Albers at mitchell.albers@buncombecounty.org for more information.

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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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