By: Stephanie Vogel, Director of Population Health
Once upon a time, we used to say the summer brought a less hectic pace of work and gave us time to catch up on our list of back burner items. This summer has been busier than ever for addressing infectious diseases, and those back burner items have stayed put for many staff. In addition to the regular responsibilities, this summer’s activities have focused on addressing the state-wide outbreak of Hepatitis A, the HIV cluster investigation and preparing for the long awaited mobile Syringe Access Exchange Programs (SAEP) in Covington and Newport.
After four months of planning, budgeting, training and practicing, NKY Health was ready to show the program to the public. In mid-July, we gave the pubic the opportunity to attend an open house in both Covington and Newport. Most local television and print media were in attendance, as well as over 100 Board Members, elected officials, organizational partners and community members. NKY Health staff were available at the open houses to walk the visitors through the mobile unit and share what services a participant will be able to access. Visitors were also able to ask questions, provide comments and pick up referral cards so they can let others know about the program.
The open house was also a good way for us to thank our community partners including St. Elizabeth Healthcare and the Kentucky Fire Commission. Last month’s News and View’s article about the importance of a part of our values, Linking to Others, by Dr. Saddler, couldn’t have been more true for our work on the SAEP. Many partners have worked side by side with us and supported us along this long journey by talking to others about the importance of the program. These same community partners showed up to the open house excited about the program and looking forward to referring others for services.
The most frequent comment staff heard was about the mobile unit itself. Visitors were surprised and pleased to see the colorfully patriotic and spacious mobile command center being provided to us by the Kentucky Fire Commission.
The SAEP open houses were a success all the way around. It would have been nice for the heat and humidity to stay on the back burner for the SAEP open houses, however it didn’t keep the public away, and it didn’t dampen our enthusiasm to carry out the mission of NKY Health on the mobile unit.
The mobile SAEP will be staffed by public health nurses and a clerical support staff person. Services will include the needle/syringe exchange, instant HIV tests, Narcan overdose reversal kits, prevention education and referrals for services including addiction treatment.
The program will operate in the parking lots of St. Elizabeth Urgent Care in Newport on Tuesdays from 1 – 4 PM and St. Elizabeth Covington on Thursdays from 1 – 4 PM.