From The Daily Sun, “Our View” on January 4, 2023.

OUR POSITION: Charlotte County’s approval of the Virginia B. Andes Volunteer Community Clinic’s idea of a mobile health unit will greatly benefit people who have little or no access to services.

Imagine you’re homeless and in need of health care but you’re miles away from help. Or, maybe you’re elderly or have mobility issues and no transportation. The options for treatment are few and far between.

Hospital emergency rooms are an option but they are miles apart and often crowded and follow-up appointments are difficult to plan. Charlotte County’s transit system can help if you can plan when you need health care the most and have an appointment.

But, what if there was a mobile health clinic that once a week or so came to your neighborhood. There would be doctors and nurses with medicine and diagnostic abilities and the resources to schedule a follow-up appointment?

That idea is about to come true.

The Virginia B. Andes Volunteer Community Clinic, which has taken care of the area’s poor and those with no insurance for years, is about to go on the road.

Charlotte County commissioners approved $750,000 to help buy a 33-foot mobile health clinic that will operate five days a week going to locations where it can offer services to the most people. Plans are to go to Tringali Park in Englewood; South County Regional Park in Punta Gorda; the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition area and any place where low-income or those without insurance need medical or mental health care.

And, after the initial visit, the Andes staff will refer clients to the clinic for follow-up services.

Suzanne Roberts, CEO of the clinic, said the deal is a win win for everyone involved.

County commissioners will have a contract drawn up that assure them ownership of the mobile unit if for any reason Andes can no longer provide services. Andes will pay for the gas and operation of the unit.

Roberts expects it will take six to nine months after the contract is signed to get the unit equipped and on the road, “sometime in the third or fourth quarter of 2023,” she said.

Besides health care, the mobile unit would be available for disaster response and other uses such as immunizations, wound care, diabetic support, primary care, pharmacy needs, mental health treatment and substance abuse needs.

Andes will partner with the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County for services such as education, testing and emergency threats.

And, just like all services at the clinic, everything will be cost free.

Roberts said there could be as many as 30,000 uninsured people in the county. She said each visit could save as much as $1,600 in prevention services.

She estimated that for every $1 spent, there is a savings of $12 in health care services.

An example of services includes the clinic’s smoking cessation program. It also has a diabetic program that gives patients a glucose monitor and monthly test strips. It has a highly effective Hepatitis C program that partners with drug manufacturers to assist uninsured patients to receive free medications for treatment with help from ShorePoint Health Port Charlotte that donates the testing needed.

There is even a cancer detection program that offers mammograms and diagnostics.

Virginia B. Andes has been a life saver for decades in Charlotte County and this mobile unit is just another example of its proactive approach to keeping people healthy.

We applaud commissioners for approving the financial aid and the Andes staff for a great idea.