Southeast Missouri State University and SEMO Health Network have joined forces in a new partnership that will extend the reach and services of the mobile health center, Southeast Health On Wheels, known as the S.H.O.W. Mobile.
Under a new partnership announced today, the S.H.O.W. Mobile will provide medical and dental services to rural southeast Missouri communities where access to care is especially difficult. The pilot program began last month.
The S.H.O.W. Mobile is a 38-foot mobile health center outfitted with medical equipment. The vehicle, which is handicapped accessible, includes a medical exam area, a full dental suite, an office area, a lab and a restroom. Federal funding for the program was made possible by a request from Missouri Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, who championed the project in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“The S.H.O.W. Mobile links crucial health services with patients throughout the region who would otherwise encounter serious challenges in obtaining access to care,” said Emerson. “It is an innovative model that overcomes the major obstacles to being seen by a medical professional. The University has worked hard on the model for the S.H.O.W. Mobile, and their effort is paying off by bringing a standard of care to hundreds of families in Southern Missouri. That has only been possible with dedicated health professionals, community leaders and University officials who are dedicated to the S.H.O.W. Mobile and its mission,” Emerson said.
Southeast’s new partner, SEMO Health Network, based in Sikeston, Mo., provides comprehensive, quality primary health care for patients in medically underserved rural communities. It strives to meet the health care needs of a significantly at-risk population in six clinics located in the six counties of the Missouri Bootheel -- New Madrid, Scott, Stoddard, Mississippi, Dunklin and Pemiscot -- that have little or no access to services, according to Cheryl White, chief executive officer of SEMO Health Network.“When we were approached by the University, we immediately saw the opportunity to provide healthcare services to rural isolated communities in the Bootheel,” she said. “We have the staff available, and the mobile unit has the perfect environment to reach this target population.”
Dr. Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University, said, “We at Southeast Missouri State University are very interested in providing health care services to residents of our region.“Our pilot project began last month, focusing on offering dental assessment and services for children in the Bootheel area,” Dobbins said. “Recently, the S.H.O.W. Mobile traveled to Cardwell, Mo., and was well-received by the faculty and students.”
During the first three months of operation, the S.H.O.W. Mobile’s focus will be on school children. The mobile unit will travel to school sites while schools are in session, providing children in grades K-6 with dental exams, fluoride varnish, basic preventive and restorative services. Four schools will be on the mobile unit’s initial route focusing on children’s dentistry in Pemiscot, Dunklin and New Madrid counties.
White says she hopes this may address barriers to care that may otherwise prevent children from receiving care. Follow-up appointments for more extensive dental work will be scheduled at the nearest federally qualified health center or private provider chosen by the parent.
White says the Bootheel area is considered a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area as well as a Medically Underserved Area.
“As a result, Medicaid, indigent and uninsured patients are restricted to a limited number of providers who are willing to address their medical and dental needs,” she said.
White says the S.H.O.W. Mobile should help in reaching some of these patients.
Dr. Diana Bruns, interim dean of the College of Health and Human Services, where the S.H.O.W. Mobile operations are housed, said future plans call for the S.H.O.W. Mobile to offer additional services, including disease prevention, healthy lifestyles, basic primary medical care, health screenings and promotion, as well as health education.
The S. H.O.W. Mobile, White said, will provide tuberculosis screenings and education, blood pressure checks and education, diabetes screenings and education, one-on-one medical exams with healthcare providers, tetanus vaccinations, HIV testing and education, H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccinations, well child exams, adult dental screenings and education on nutrition tobacco cessation, food stamps, family planning, breast self exams, MO HealthNet and pesticides.
Nurse practitioners or doctors, plus nurses, medical assistants and dental staff will work on the vehicle. Dr. Daniel Domjan of SEMO Health Network, will serve as the medical director and Dr. Gail Redman will serve as the dental director.
Patients will be served on a first-come, first-served basis regardless of their ability to pay, White said, and a sliding fee scale will be offered to all uninsured and underinsured patients. In addition, the unit’s staff will handle billing most private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare at the time of service.
“I would like to thank Cheryl White of SEMO Health Network for her leadership and cooperation” with this initiative, Bruns said. “I would also like to praise (Southeast) President Ken Dobbins for his vision in putting this effort together. Finally, I would like to thank Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson for her support in Washington. Based upon the healthcare reform measures that have been proposed in Washington, D.C., we are looking forward to actively pursuing grant opportunities for continued collaborations in the future.”
White says the S.H.O.W. Mobile unit will offer medical services to patients of all ages, including patients who are homeless, in transitional housing or patients who have difficulty scheduling appointments. The mobile unit also will provide medical services to migrant and seasonal farm workers and their families.
She says the S.H.O.W. Mobile will be scheduled in various communities on a regular timetable, and bilingual support services will be offered.The S.H.O.W. Mobile, which first began operating in summer 2006, is designed to make a positive impact on the region's economy by improving the overall level of health care in the potential work force.
Emerson said the S.H.O.W. Mobile serves the public in a variety of ways.
“The overall goal is to increase the number of residents who receive primary medical care. Health education, screening and care reduce the incidence and severity of chronic disease. The services of the S.H.O.W. Mobile make our communities, workplaces and schools healthier places. In rural areas, this access means the difference between a treatment or a diagnosis and nothing at all – and that is a major contribution to our health care system,” Emerson said.
The S.H.O.W. Mobile began as a pilot project focused on serving as the foundation of a sustained structure to promote and enhance the health of residents in selected rural communities where significant health disparities have been identified. The unit was built by Mobile Medical and Command Center Vehicles in Newton, Texas. The S.H.O.W Mobile serves as a convenient mechanism for residents in rural southeast Missouri, with limited mobility due to transportation barriers, to access care.
Bruns says the S.H.O.W. Mobile offers the potential to include Southeast Missouri State University healthcare majors – nursing and dietetic students and those in the dental program at Southeast’s Sikeston campus – as a support team while gaining valuable clinical experiential learning opportunities.