On Tuesday, the city of Opelika unveiled the Neighborhood Mobile Wellness Clinic, a bus intended to provide free medical services to underserved people in the community.
The mobile clinic will be operational by late November or early December and will offer routine and chronic disease screenings, promote disease prevention, and provide referrals to community resources.
Services will be provided by East Alabama Health staff, with assistance from health care students at local colleges and universities. There will be approximately three staff members seeing patients inside the bus and approximately six people working outside the bus to manage crowds and manage logistics.
This will be a walk-in clinic only. Patients will not need to make an appointment.
Once the bus reaches the streets of Opelika, it is planned to visit the Jeter community on Tuesday and the Carver community on Friday.
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The push to establish a local mobile clinic came from Jocelyn Zanzot and her husband Daniel Neil, of Auburn. They saw the positive impact of a mobile clinic in Florida and decided to start working with local community leaders to create one here.
Zanzot said this clinic will reach people who don’t have access to transportation and provide a private space to see a doctor who can also connect patients to other services they may need.
The interior design of the bus was created in partnership with some of Auburn’s nursing school leaders, and Zanzot said they thought about what was needed, especially around privacy.
“This is amazing! It’s really exciting to see. It’s a great collaborative effort,” she said.
Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller said this project has been ongoing since 2018.
First Transit, a transit company headquartered in Ohio, donated a bus that was refurbished to function as a mobile clinic.
Opelika City Administrator Joey Motley said the bus had undergone numerous modifications. The roof was raised, new air units were added and medical equipment was installed.
Motley said he reviewed the University of Florida’s Outreach Mobile Clinic in Gainesville, Florida, and followed the model of their successful program.
After years of waiting and fundraising, Fuller said he was happy to see him hit the road and see the positive results he will bring to the community.
“We are going to change lives,” he said. “This is just another important and wonderful day in the life of our community. We couldn’t have done this without the strong partnership with East Alabama Health.
Laura Grill, President and CEO of EHA, said the partnership between the Casey Family Foundation, an organization that focuses on reducing the need for foster care; the City of Opelika; and WASH began with the mission of figuring out how to meet the health care needs of members in underserved areas of the community.
“The goal was to figure out how to connect more people to care, give them access to care, and that was really our core mission,” Grill said.
Matthew McClammey, director of the Opelika Housing Authority, said he was very supportive of the venture, as was the Opelika Housing Authority, which plans to work with the city and EAMC to support the mobile clinic.
“We have a lot of seniors who don’t have transportation,” McClammey said. “This bus that can go to them will help them a lot, and we have a lot of disabled families who don’t have the possibility to go to the hospital.”
EHA’s Case Management Director Sutricia Johnson grew up in the Carver community of Opelika and feels it is her duty to give back to the community that helped shape it.
Johnson said it would take “a village” to bring the vision of the mobile clinic to life and sustain it.
Through this clinic, Johnson said healthcare workers will be able to meet members of the community where they are and be able to identify an illness or disease that would otherwise go undetected.
“We’re going to start small and only God knows where it will go… We’re excited to see what’s to come. We are excited to go to work in our community,” she said.
Hours of operation will be 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Johnson said the bus schedule, including time and location, will soon be available on the EAMC website and the city’s website. from Opelika.
Johnson said the mobile clinic will work with the Opelika Housing Authority to determine where the best point of care would be that will be easily accessible for members of the Jeter and Carver communities.