A new program will provide those living in rural parts of the county easier access to programs designed to make them healthier.
That access will come through outreach clinics, operated by the Jackson County Health Department, and will begin in July at senior citizen centers in Browns- town, Crothersville and Medora.
The clinics are part of a department program to encourage individuals to “Do One Thing” for better health, said Lin Montgomery, the department’s public health coordinator-educator.
The outreach centers will be open to people of all ages, she said.
Department staff will be available at each center to provide education and support to individuals who are interested in learning more about healthy eating and exercise or reducing/quitting tobacco use and what vaccinations are recommended for certain age groups. Many of those programs already are available at the health department’s office in Seymour.
The outreach centers also will provide free testing for HIV and hepatitis C antibodies.
“An individual cannot get treatment for a disease if they don’t know they have it,” Dr. Christopher Bunce said. “Our goal is to make testing for two communicable but treatable diseases, HIV (human immunodeficiency disease) and HCV (hepatitis C virus), easy and free.”
If a test result is positive for either, individuals are encouraged to seek treatment but need to understand that both are treatable and not as life-threatening as they once were, said Bunce, an infectious disease specialist who recently became the county’s new health officer.
Health department staff will be conducting these rapid antibody tests free of charge and will be able to make recommendations and referrals for treatment and risk-reduction planning, should it be necessary.
The initial HIV and HCV test results can be made available to the individual within 20 minutes and are confidential. If the tests indicate a negative response, then the individual can continue knowing that they are free of the disease at the present time and won’t be exposing or passing anything along to friends and family.
Individuals also need to realize that some antibodies might not be present and need a little longer to be indicated. If a person is certain they have been exposed and or have participated in recognized risky behavior in the past, they might be encouraged to have a second test conducted at a time in the near future.
“What a stress relief knowing whether you have or have not contracted one of these diseases and what you can do about it,” Bunce said.
Plans currently are being made to establish a partnership between the health department and senior citizens centers in Brownstown, Crothersville and Seymour as locations and testing sites.
“We are currently looking at starting in July on Tuesdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and traveling from one site to another,” Bunce said.
Montgomery said a schedule will be released when it becomes available.
A regular schedule will be determined with locations and times for the free testing and education services and be made available via print and radio announcements.
Appointments will not be necessary but appreciated, and individuals do not have to attend the clinic in the area in which they reside.
For information about the outreach clinics or other services offered by the Jackson County Health Department, call 812-522-6474.