News Magazine

Mobile testing unit was money well spent

Officials with the Community Health Center of Central Missouri said around 200 people have been able to get first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines thanks to a mobile unit that went into operation at the beginning of the year.

In November, the Cole County Commission approved federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding for a 37-foot mobile trailer for COVID-19 testing, which could also be used for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. The total cost was $328,893. The unit arrived in January.

“We’ve also been able to do about 200 COVID tests in the mobile unit,” said Crystal Sullivan, the center’s chief clinical officer. “We’ve been to the Salvation Army on Jefferson Street; we’ve done four different Jefferson City Housing Authority facilities, a nursing home and a behavioral health facility. We’ve also gone to home-bound patients and given them vaccinations.”

Sullivan said the unit has two fully equipped exam rooms, just like those available at the center on Christy Drive, along with other clinic equipment, including a freezer to store vaccines.

When they’ve done recent clinics, Sullivan said, they’ve had patients who are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Initially, we had a lot of people interested in the vaccines, but we’re starting to see that dwindle a little bit,” Sullivan said. “We know that there are a lot of people that have concerns or questions.”

Sullivan said they’ve talked with representatives from the Missouri NAACP, Missouri Faith Voices, Mid-Missouri Black Nurses Association and others to offer support as they work to get people past vaccine hesitancy.

“We hear it every day in the office, and for those individuals that have those concerns, it’s important to talk to people in your life that you trust,” she said.

That may be a physician, a pastor, a family member or friend.

Sullivan said there is a lot of information on the internet, and it can be difficult to determine what can be trusted.

The idea of a mobile unit had been talked about for several months after the pandemic began. But the initial proposal was tabled when health center officials found the original mobile unit they wanted would not be available by the end of the year, which would have disqualified them from using federal COVID-relief funds for the purchase. They opted for a different unit that could arrive in time for the federal funding, and the County Commission approved the purchase.

“This will be something that’s available to the community for years to come,” Sullivan said. “We can use it for more than testing and vaccination clinics. We could do a mobile clinic to offer help to those with hypertension or diabetes.”

One of the uses Sullivan sees for the unit is at the annual Project Homeless Connect. The gathering is intended to connect Jefferson City’s homeless population with shelter or housing, counseling, food and clothing donations, identification cards, medical checkups and health screenings, and other services.

The Community Health Center serves Cole, Callaway, Moniteau and Osage counties.

“If there is a need in Mid-Missouri, we are willing to take this unit to wherever that need may be,” Sullivan said.