Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health hits the road with new mobile clinic

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health's mobile clinic hit the road this week for its first clinic operations around the county. Here, the unit is pictured in the Eudora Middle School parking lot Thursday evening, where the health department was hosting a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for children ages 6 months to 4 years old.

Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health has been able to take recent coronavirus vaccine clinics on the road, thanks to its new mobile clinic.

The mobile unit was purchased using Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds and is equipped with two small rooms on either side of its trailer. The unit made its official debut offering clinic operations in June as the health department rolled out COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months to 4 years.

On Thursday, the mobile clinic was at Eudora Middle School for its third appearance of the week, following other clinics the previous two days at locations around Lawrence.

Eudora parent Monica Dittmer and her husband, Chris Berger, were at the clinic this past week so their 1-year-old daughter, Austyn Berger, could get her first dose of the COVID vaccine. Both parents work full-time “and then some,” Dittmer said, so having a resource like the mobile clinic available both right in their community and after regular business hours — in the case of Thursday’s clinic, from 4 to 7 p.m. — was convenient.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

One-year-old Austyn Berger, pictured here being held by her mother, Monica Dittmer, was one of the patients who received a COVID-19 vaccine at the health department’s mobile clinic earlier this week in Eudora.

“Nobody has to miss work to be able to get a vaccine that’s important, right?” Dittmer said. “And it’s super easy when all you have to do is drive up, get in, get out, get your shot and go right back on home.”

The couple have four children, and Dittmer said the mobile clinic removed the hassle of planning a commute to Lawrence that the family previously had to consider when taking the older children to get the vaccine.

It’s also a resource with a lot of potential for when and where it could be deployed, Dittmer said. She said she’d like to see the mobile clinic used for other vaccines, like for flu shots or other immunizations required for children as they get older. She said it would also be a good tool for facilitating sports physicals ahead of the school year.

The health department has been asking all of its recent mobile clinic patients about their ideas on this front in the form of a survey, which is also available for anyone to complete online. Along with items like the immunizations Dittmer mentioned, services like sexually transmitted infection checks, birth control distribution and WIC services are all listed among more than a dozen options that people can indicate as an interest.

“We’re trying to make it community-driven,” said Charlie Bryan, business systems analyst and lead COVID vaccination planner with the health department. “If people tell us, ‘Hey, we want this,’ then we’ll try to see if we can make it work.”

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Inside the mobile clinic, there are two examination spaces on either side that allow physicians to see multiple patients at once during events like the past week’s mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

Bryan said the clinic has been well-received so far, with the first of the three mobile vaccine clinics this past week drawing more than 150 people.

Registration counts for the coming week — when mobile clinics are scheduled for Tuesday in Baldwin City, Wednesday at Prairie Park Elementary School, and Thursday in Lecompton — are a bit more modest, however, and Bryan said the health department is still working to get the word out. In the event that not enough people register to justify using the mobile clinic, Bryan said the health department would simply shift to a different clinic format.

“Our hope really is to build better connections throughout the whole county, the COVID clinics being one way,” Bryan said. “But also long-term, we want to figure out what’s the best way to further serve everybody in Douglas County. I think access is our main goal.”

Bryan added that the health department’s mission is to advance health for all, and the mobile clinic is an important tool in addressing inequities in health care access throughout the county. That’s a sentiment the health department’s director, Dan Partridge, echoed in a comment to the Journal-World Friday afternoon.

“Health equity and reducing barriers to good health are essential elements of our mission,” Partridge said. “Our mobile medical unit and the ability to take our services to the community is one of the ways we demonstrate our commitment to advancing health for all.”


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