Clark County clinic provides refugee health screens for new arrivals to U.S.

A refugee health testing clinic has been operational at the Clark County Combined Health District (CCHD) for a little more than a month, giving health officials a window into the chief health concerns of the Haitian immigrant population in the area and who best to interact with them.

The clinic is intended for people who have been in the U.S. for less than four months, serving as the first stop for healthcare screening, Christina Conover, director of nursing at CCCHD, said in a Haitian Coalition meeting.

Typically, refugee health screenings occur 30-90 days after a person arrives in the U.S., but this was extended to 150 days for Clark County in order to reach more people.

Health Commissioner Chris Cook said during the meeting the service will help Rocking Horse Community Health Center and Mercy Health – Springfield, which see large numbers of Haitian patients.

“They cannot possibly be the answer to everybody’s primary care,” Conover said.

Conover said the first visit to the clinic is with nurses and disease investigators, and the patient’s vitals are taken, as well as lab work and other screenings. Staff will also discuss Medicaid, though so far many have come having already started the application process.

The patient receives any recommendations and a referral to additional care if necessary on the second visit.

“It helps direct the next steps, so that is the goal right now because we know it is very difficult to get referred to primary care in Springfield right now,” Conover said.

Conover said being so early in this process, no patients have yet gotten to the point of visiting their primary care physician.

Patients can receive transportation to the clinic if necessary, Conover said. There are on-staff interpreters at the clinic, which helps patients better understand their healthcare staff than if they had an interpreter connected by phone.

“None of this really works without dedicated interpreters who understand the program, [and] are more than interpreters,” Conover said. “They advocate for the program ...”

Clinic staff has thus far seen 43 people for a first visit, Conover said. The majority of people have been in the 18-39 age range.

So far, several patients have screened positive for needing additional mental health services, as well as some showing signs of prediabetes or diabetes, Conover said.

Some patients have tested positive for latent tuberculosis, meaning they have been in contact with someone who has active tuberculosis, but they themselves are unable to pass it, Conover said. The person’s immune system has attacked the illness and antibodies can be found through screening. A doctor will recommend medication to decrease the chance that the disease would ever become active.

The majority of patients have also required several vaccinations, around eight to 10.

The clinic runs two days a week by appointment, though a lot of work happens outside those days, Conover said.

To make an appointment, call 937-390-5600. Information is available in English, Haitian Creole and Spanish.

There are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Haitian immigrants living in Springfield and the surrounding areas, with major growth beginning around five years ago.

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