Health Care Administration and Policy professor Jay Shen works to increase understanding and use of palliative care among Asian-Americans.
Touro University Mobile Clinic Making Its Rounds With Help From Opportunity Village
It’s a question doctors often ask their patients at some point during a medical exam. For those with mental disabilities, it’s not an easy question to answer.
“Our loved ones should be able to get the health care they need and deserve,” said Regina Daniel, whose son has a mental disability.
To address this issue, Henderson-based Touro University created a mobile clinic that will travel to the four Opportunity Village campuses — East Lake Mead Parkway, West Oakey Boulevard, West Craig Road and South Buffalo Drive — to provide health care services.
The mobile clinic will travel throughout the week and set up appointments for Opportunity Village’s OVIPs — how they refer to those who have mental disabilities.
“This is making a difference in the lives of the people we love,” Daniel said.
The mobile clinic launched Nov. 10 at the Englestad Campus, 6050 S Buffalo Drive.
Shelley Berkley, CEO and senior provost for Touro, said the college spent the last three years looking to address gaps in accessibility to health care.
“It doesn’t make sense to have people travel to you for their health care,” she said. “This provides care to the most vulnerable among us because all human beings need basic health care.”
She added the traditional brick-and-mortar clinic model can be inaccessible for some communities, which is why Touro considered a mobile unit.
The college created its first mobile clinic to do outreach in other vulnerable communities such as the homeless population and domestic violence survivors who are in shelters.
Berkley said outreach to people with mental disabilities was a logical next step.
“It seemed like it was the missing piece of the Opportunity Village puzzle,” she added.
Daniel’s child has gone to Opportunity Village for years. Daniel said it’s hard to for those with mental disabilities to find doctors and medical care.
Even if they find doctors, they are presented with other obstacles from unaccommodating waiting rooms to doctors who are nervous to treat patients.
“Sometimes, they don’t know what to do,” she said.
John Dougherty, dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Touro, said this also serves as a learning tool for medical students.
“This gives the students an amazing educational experience to be able to deal with people unable to communicate what’s wrong,” he said.
While the mobile clinic is staffed with medical practitioners, it also has students who get to learn firsthand what it’s like to work with patients with special needs.
Vanessa Halvorsen, student body president at Touro University who will be working inside the clinic, said this is why she is pursuing a degree in medicine.
When she worked with people with mental disabilities at the Special Olympics, she realized something.
“One of the parents told me they feared if their child got a sprained ankle,” she said, “they were worried if they took them to a doctor, they wouldn’t know what to do.”
Since the same staff will rotate shifts, Dougherty said another benefit is that OVIPs at will get to be with some of the medical crew that comes to the campus.
Berkley said the university is already looking at creating another mobile clinic.
“We don’t need just one clinic,” Berkley said. “We need a fleet.”
As the United States heads into the final stretch of a very long election season, Nevadans need to make sure that candidates and the media focus on issues that matter to our daily lives. Certainly, health care and the policies that candidates are proposing to address health care need to be a vital part of the discussion.
To that end, the Nevada Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) is working with its many partner groups to encourage Nevadans to ask candidates what they plan to do to address chronic diseases. Using television, radio, newspaper, and outdoor advertising–along with participating in health fairs and engaging in other grassroots activities–the Nevada PFCD is working to bring the issue into the forefront of the political dialogue. The PFCD’s message highlights the importance of addressing chronic disease in health care policies and the major impact that chronic diseases have on our lives, our health care spending and our productivity.
Over half of all Nevadans have at least one chronic disease and nearly 700,000 have more than one. Chronic diseases account for seven out of ten deaths in our state and 86 cents of every dollar spent on health care costs. And the problem is getting worse every year. For example, right now, projections are that one in three first graders will develop diabetes during their lifetime.
Yet the news is not all bad. The Nevada PFCD released a study showing that simple changes in lifestyles and a focus on prevention and developing new treatments could save nearly 11,000 Nevada lives every year and cut spending on health care in our state by $55 billion over the next 15 years. Health care policies that work to encourage prevention, medical breakthroughs, and providing treatment options are a major part of the cure.
Chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease impact every one of us, whether we suffer from one of those conditions or a loved one does. Given the impact of chronic disease on all Nevadans, we should be able to expect candidates to address the issue before they ask for our vote.
The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease is a nonpartisan group and does not support any specific candidate or political party. As Chairman Dr. Ken Thorpe noted, the purpose of the national and state organizations is to “command the attention of our elected leaders to the spectrum of issues that chronic disease presents and to advocate for policies that will bridge gaps in health care and create opportunities that promote and enable better overall health for our population.”
The Nevada PFCD and its partner organizations will be working hard on all fronts this election season to ensure candidates address health care in a meaningful way. But advertising and advocacy campaigns won’t work without the vocal support of voters.
So the next time a candidate or a campaign knocks on your door or calls to ask you for your vote, join us by asking in return, “What do you plan to do to fight chronic disease?”
Larry Matheis is a co-chair of the Nevada Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease and the Executive Director of the Nevada Medical Center, a nonprofit corporation established to improve the health of Nevadans and Nevada’s health care system by promoting and supporting collaboration and cooperation in the medical community and establishing performance metrics and health indicators to identify priorities and measure community success. He served as Executive Director of the Nevada State Medical Association from 1988-2013.