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    Mobile clinic brings free healthcare, health education to eastern Kentucky

    By Shepherd Snyder,

    Medical tents were set up in the gymnasium of East Perry Elementary School in Hazard by the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps during a mobile clinic. (Shepherd Snyder / WEKU)

    Residents of eastern Kentucky often have trouble finding affordable or accessible healthcare. Mobile clinics are one way to bridge that gap.

    The Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps is a nonprofit that organizes free, pop-up clinics to underserved areas across the U.S. Also known as RAM, the group set up shop at East Perry Elementary School in Hazard last weekend.

    Jordan Adams is a physician who practices in Hazard who helped with general medical exams. He says the clinic is a one-stop shop for the area.

    “They can really walk in and be seen for really anything that we can offer,” Adams said. “You know, we have somewhat limited resources, but we can connect them to really any service that they may need. I would say the majority of patients that come into this clinic are definitely here for vision and dental.”

    The clinic also offered womens’ health exams, behavioral health consultations and other services. Patients drove from across the eastern Kentucky region to receive care – some arriving at the crack of dawn.

    Patient Mary Carter drove around 100 miles from Louisa in Lawrence County. Her and many others found out about the mobile clinic through word of mouth.

    “I have health insurance, but recently, I went to a dentist a couple weeks ago, and they did not take it anymore,” Carter said. “And my neighbor and friend told me about this place.”

    Many patients called the clinic a great help for people living without insurance, or who are otherwise low income. Alex Whitaker, another patient from Letcher County, says that’s a common sight in the region.

    “They work long weeks and just can't even afford to live,” Whitaker said. “You gotta choose between going to the grocery store and feeding your kids or going to the doctor and getting your teeth fixed.”

    Other patients say they were drawn by the clinic’s convenience.

    Roger Whisman from Breathitt County says people who were displaced by the floods two years ago are trying to book appointments now that the region is recovering. That makes availability even rarer.

    “For instance, the dentist, it takes almost till August to get to the dentist, or anything. So everyone's just trying to get caught up, so (the clinic’s) just like a backup thing. You have to go to Lexington, Winchester to get anything done anymore.”

    For the clinic workers, it’s a chance to help these communities. A total of 301 volunteers worked at the RAM clinic over the weekend, including help from local physicians to out-of-state college students.

    Ron Singer is the division chief of UK’s public health dentistry program, and brought 35 dental students to help bolster the clinic’s numbers.

    “They're learning how wonderful it is to provide care to an underserved community,” Singer said. “They're learning great communication skill sets. They're learning how to provide care and make someone feel wonderful, and that's important.”

    It’s also a chance to educate patients on anything from proper nutrition, to mental health, to how to reverse an overdose.

    Julie Perry from the University of Kentucky helped run training sessions on how to recognize overdoses. She said those sessions also help reduce the stigma of carrying Narcan regularly.

    “I think it's efforts like this that do that, the more we make it normal,” Perry said. “It's like having a band aid or having triple antibiotic ointment if you cut your arm.”

    Hender Rojas, a family nurse practitioner also from UK, helped man the women’s health station. He called patient education one of the most important parts of the job.

    “We go over what the indications are for, what we're looking for, what tests we're going to be testing for, and then we’re very probably as gentle and as verbal as possible as we go through the procedure,” Rojas said.

    RAM says they provided $191,160 in free care to 270 patients over the course of the weekend.

    ** WEKU is working hard to be a leading source for public service, and fact-based journalism. Monthly supporters are the top funding source for this growing nonprofit news organization. Please join others in your community who support WEKU by making your donation .

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