WEST UNION, Ohio | Nearly 1,000 citizens from every corner of Adams County rely on the Appalachian Hope Van visiting each month for children's immunizations, and a variety of vaccines and health screen testing.
"We try to keep to the same schedule, but if we are late, we start getting calls at the Health Department pretty quickly. Generally, if the schools are closed because of bad roads, then we can't run either," said Judy Bennington, Adams County Health Department administrator.
Despite operating on a low budget, the ACHD manages to offer a lot of free services as well as many with small fees to anyone living in the county. And the services with fees are only the cost to the health department, because it is a non-profit organization, Bennington said.
One of the newest immunizations available since January is high-dose flu vaccine, free to patients since January. This vaccine is only available to patients over 65, Bev Mathias, ACHD nursing director, said.
As people age, they produce less antigens to fight off the flu bug. The higher dose vaccine is four times stronger than regular flu vaccine so it helps the patient produce more antibodies to stave off the illness. Since the higher dose flu shot came out last year, the ACHD has had only two people who reported a reaction to the shot. Someone that has reactions to flu shots could have a high temperature or more aches than a normal flu shot, Mathias said.
Patients cannot get the flu from the vaccine because it is not live. Sometimes, people have been exposed to the flu before they received the vaccine, and mistakenly think the vaccine gave them the flu, Mathias, said. She recommends a flu shot every year for most people, because the flu strains change.
Flu shots for children and adults are also free, as well as many health screening tests including: blood pressure checks, blood sugar tests, pregnancy, mammograms, and hemoglobin (anemic or iron level) screens, Mathias, said.
"We see a lot of kids for immunizations. Now immunizations begin when the babies are born, and the next are due in one month, then two months," Bennington said. The ACHD also contracts to provide one part-time and five full-time nurses to the county schools.
Another newer test the ACHD offers is a cholesterol finger-stick test for $8. This test will give results in five-to-eight minutes, as opposed to the older way when the nurse had to take blood and send it to a lab, Bennington said.
Other tests available from the health department or the van which may sometimes include a fee include pneumonia vaccines, tuberculosis testing, all immunizations that children need and lead testing, Bennington said.
Pneumonia vaccines which protects against 23 of the most problematic pneumonia strains is sometimes recommended by doctors for those with bronchitis, asthma, diabetes and heart problems as well as smokers, Mathias said.
On mornings of the first and third Wednesdays of the month, the health department has visiting OB/GYN doctors for Pap tests, pregnancy monitoring, and other OB/GYN services, Bennington said. Patients can use their medical or insurance cards.
For questions about the cost and to schedule an OB/GYN appointment for Adams County Health Department call Dr. Barbara Patridge's and Dr. Judith Varnau's office, in Georgetown at 937-378-7130.
Many mothers living in remote areas also rely on the van to bring Women, Infants and Children program coupons to buy baby formula and food, Bennington said.
Bennington, who has been with ACHD for 33 years, and the administrator for 10 years, said, "I'm really fortunate to get to work with the employees here who have been with us for years. We work so well together. And like everywhere else, we are on a tight budget ... so everyone fills in the gaps when necessary,"
The ACHD and its van rely on a 1.6 mill levy that brings in about $90,000 a year, $4,000 from the county commissioners, and about $123,000 that township trustees choose to allocate to the health department, Bennington said. She has been researching grant availability to eventually replace the Appalachian Hope Van that was purchased with a grant in 1996, she said. The levy is up for renewal in 2013.
"With gas prices it has been difficult to manage, but we are getting through, and despite its age, the van is in good running condition because of excellent routine maintenance," she said.
In 2011, 916 people used the Hope Van, according to ACHD records.
For more information about ACHD services visit on line at: www.acboh.org/AppalachianHopeVanServices.aspx or call at 937-544-5547.
The van's schedule each month includes:
-- First Tuesday each month, the van stops at the gravel lot across from Subway in Winchester, 9-11:30 a.m.; Wayne Township building in Cherry Fork, noon-12:30 p.m.
-- First Thursday, Miller's Baker, Wheat Ridge, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
-- Second Tuesday, Knauff's Grocery, Blue Creek, 9-11:30 a.m.
-- Second Thursday, Walmart, West Union, 9-11:30 a.m.
-- Third Tuesday, Family Dollar, Manchester, 9-11:30 a.m.
-- Third Thursday, Seaman Community Building, 9-11:30 a.m.
-- Fourth Tuesday, 5/3 Bank,n Peebles, 9-11:30 a.m.
-- Fourth Thursday, Walmart, West Union, 9-11:30 a.m.