This year, with many more sponsors, Arlene Hewitt, Richard Merritt, Dan Hawkins, Bill Euille, Mary Anne Weber, Dr. John Klousia, Canek Aguirre, Eduardo Mantilla-Torres, and Jamie Conrad have cobbled together another free health fair for the uninsured.
Some of them are part of the Alliance for Alexandria’s Uninsured, a lead partner and staffer of the Planning Committee for the fair. They see a difference between last year’s fair and this year’s: last year, there were five or six sponsors: this year there are 54 ... and counting.
The Planning Committee was also a fraction of the size. This year the committee filled a conference room on Sept. 22, at 8 a.m., before many of them went to their day jobs, talking about how to improve the fair and how much more money they needed to find before Nov. 5.
Sitting around the planning table was a group of faith-based partners, Alexandria Public Schools, Community and Human Services officials, community organizers, health practitioners, and citizens.
Jamie Conrad, from the Immanuel Church on the Hill — he described it as the “Pumpkin Church” because of their annual pumpkin sale — pointed out that the list of sponsors was so long that it would no longer fit on the flyer about the fair. Conrad also represents the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy on the planning committee.
McArthur Myers. of “In God’s Hands” ministry, talked about his work getting DASH to put up posters in buses to publicize the fair and his efforts to find mini-vans to help transport people to the event. Myers said he had been to T.C. Williams High School to try to find volunteers among the students there who speak as many as 158 different languages. Language assistance is important at the fair, where many attendees are immigrants.
Former Mayor Bill Euille said he would talk with the West End Rotary Club.
Several said they would locate tables.
Kaiser Permanente was recognized for its $3,000 donation.
Marion Brunken, who had been with the Advocacy for Alleviating Homelessness, and is now executive director of Volunteer Alexandria, went through the volunteer needs . The health fair was still looking for donors of food and water for the volunteers.
One of the issues discussed was follow-up care. Barbara Nowak, nurse practitioner at Alexandria City Public Schools, noted that last year some attendees at the fair had presented serious health problems, high blood pressure for instance, but they had just walked out without a follow-up plan. “Ethically,” she said, “medical practitioners aren’t comfortable with lack of follow-up, so something has to be done about that this year.” Post screening referrals will go to Neighborhood Health, which currently has a ceiling of 900 patients but will triage any serious issues.
Following last year’s health fair, the Alliance for Alexandria’s Uninsured focused its attention on convincing City Council of the need for additional dollars to support follow up care, especially for those low-income uninsured adults who are without a medical home or a regular source of care. Councilman Tim Lovain’s budget amendment, adopted unanimously by the council, increased the city’s assistance to Neighborhood Health by $102,641, enabling Neighborhood Health to provide primary care services to an additional 700 low-income uninsured adults, averaging two visits a year per adult. The Alliance encouraged raising the revenue through an increase in the cigarette tax, instead of tapping into the two-cent increase to the property tax to finance it.
The need for follow up care should be aided by INOVA’s opening the new “Simplicity Clinic,” targeting the adult uninsured population. “This idea has been used by a few other health systems in VIrginia with a lot of success,” said Ann Harbour, responsible for community relations with Inova Alexandria Hospital. Simplicity Clinic won’t be competing with Neighborhood Health because they only serve adults. The Planning Committee hoped the new clinic would be at the fair to ensure a hand-off to their clinic if someone needs a PSA test or mammogram.
Health and wellness activities will also be part of the fair this year. Nutritional meal planning for low income families will also be a feature. Glen Hopkins of Hopkins House, new to the committee, said they would provide activities for children.
Tai Chi, CPR training, and fitness and wellness activities for adults and children will also be part of the health fair.
In an email to the Health Fair Committee on Sept. 21, Mayor Allison Silberberg extended her thanks to each of the planning committee members for their hard work and dedication. “All of us can be proud that Alexandria is a compassionate city. We are a city that is concerned about our most vulnerable. Having one’s health is crucial, and you and the upcoming Health Fair are a significant part of this commitment.”
Having helped to get an additional 700 adults primary care, but aware that this would still only cover about 40 percent of the low-income population, the Alliance pledged to try to raise additional funds from the community — between $50,000 to $75,000 — to add to what Neighborhood Health got from the city, thereby "nudging" the total number in the community that could qualify for primary care services through Neighborhood Health closer to 1,000.
"With the city's investment in Neighborhood Health and the generosity of so many in the Alexandria community, many low-income residents should no longer face overwhelming obstacles to obtaining timely and affordable primary health care services," according to Richard Merritt, one of the Alliance’s founding members and a co-chair of the planning committee for the health fair.
For more information, including a full list of partners for the health fair see www.accessalexandria.org. To donate to the effort, Alexandria Cares for the Uninsured is the 501(c)(3) with ACT for Alexandria.
According to Ionela Lutai, the emergency preparedness manager at Volunteer Alexandria, the following needs remain unmet for the health fair:
- Friday, Nov. 4 - Set-up from 4-8 p.m., 10 volunteers will assist providers and other volunteers with the set up process of the fair.
- Saturday, Nov. 5 Health Fair - Shifts are available.
- Parking Lot Attendants, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., eight volunteers needed to help direct participants to the best place to park and ensure that they do not block entrances or exists.
- Greeters, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., six volunteers will greet participants at the door, ensure they are in the right place, and direct them to the proper check in stations.
- Guest Registration/Intake, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., 16 volunteers will check-in attendees as they come in and direct them to the proper stations.
- Provider check-in, 7:30 a.m.-9 a.m., six volunteers will check-in providers as they come in and direct them to the proper stations.
- Volunteer check-in, 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., eight volunteers will check-in other volunteers, offer their lunch tickets and distribute shirts/vests.
- Guest Guides, 8:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m., eight volunteers will guide people from station to station and ensure they are prepared for the next station.
- Security and Room monitors, 8:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m., eight volunteers will assist with walking the premises of the fair to ensure everyone is safe.
- Exit interviews, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., 16 volunteers will ensure participants have all their required information completed. Check their fair passports and make sure they went through at least three stations.
- Translators, 8:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m., 16 volunteers will assist with translating services, answering questions and guiding guests as needed.
- Children’s area, 8:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m., eight volunteers will monitor and entertain the children.
- Runners between 8:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m., six volunteers will assist providers, guests and other volunteers as needed.
- Lions Club Volunteers between 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., 10 volunteers will assist with crowd control and help with the lines.
People can sign up on www.volunteeralexandria.org and enter “fair” in the search button or call 703-836-2176.