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‘Free to Be Healthy’ program under way

February 17, 2014
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Virginia Moran doesn't know if she would be alive today if the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center didn't offer her help with her diabetes.

"I went to the health center in 2010 and was diagnosed with diabetes. I needed insulin and pills and they helped me with my medications. They are awesome there. If it wasn't for the health center I would probably be dead by now," Moran said.

"The cost of the insulin is $250 a prescription. I couldn't afford that and I wasn't sure where to go. I signed up for the 'Free to Be Healthy' program and they checked my sugar and cholesterol and I am doing fantastic now. I am still trying to lose weight," commented the 59-year-old Wintersville resident.

Article Photos

COUNTING PILLS — Dr. Denise Lucas, left, of the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center’s “Free to Be Healthy” program writes a prescription for diabetes medicine, while Kathy Krimok, a certified pharmacy technician with the health center, counts the pills in the health center’s medication room. - Dave Gossett

"I am working but can't afford the health insurance. That's why the health center is so important to me. If I need a prescription filled I call the health center and they help me. I am so very grateful they are there," continued Moran.

Approximately one-fourth of the patients at the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center are suffering from a form of diabetes.

Those numbers prompted Ann Quillen, executive director of the free clinic, to seek funding for the year-long "Free to Be Healthy"program.

"Our professional team conducts a quality of life assessment. Our goal is to make the patients who have diabetes learn to live healthier lives," Quillen stated.

"We are targeting patients who have diabetes or who are on the edge of diabetes. We have looked at our clinic patient population and have extended invitations to those patients and to any uninsured county residents who have diabetes," explained Dr. Denise Lucas.

Lucas is a certified nurse practitioner with a long history with free clinics and an instructor/professor at Duquesne University in the certified nurse practitioner program.

Deanna Miller, licensed practical nurse, and Dina Scarpone, a volunteer registered nurse, are assisting with the program.

"I do the intake work and serve as the project manager and we assist with the initial screening. We also determine the standards of care the patient is currently receiving. We work to do what we can within our walls," noted Miller.

According to Miller, "We check the patients' blood sugar levels, look at their feet and make sure the little issues aren't falling through the cracks. We check their cholesterol, make sure they are taking a baby aspirin if they need to and always check their blood pressure."

Quillen said a free diabetic lunch and educational program about diabetes is planned for the public on March 3 at the YWCA on North Fourth Street. The luncheon will start at 11:30 a.m.

"We will have a dietician, a pharmacist and a physical therapist to discuss what diabetic patients can do. And we will have more educational programs in the future," Quillen added.

"Another important point is we offer free diabetic testing supplies to our patients. And we offer free medication for our patients. If the diabetic patients have the proper tools to use you have a better chance. Patients can learn about their disease and the best way to treat it. We are also compiling statistics about our patients and the program so we can give Ann more help in seeking future grants," Lucas said.

"This program may be one of our best programs at the health center. It is a major impact on the lives of many of our patients. We have a large working population. These are very active people who are working to take care of themselves and their families. Our goal at this point is to have at least 75 patients involved in our 'Free to Be Healthy' program. We want to see this program continue after the funding for this year has ended. We hope to extend our program with the help of additional funds and grants," Quillen said.

She noted funds for the program have been donated by the American Medical Association Foundation Healthy Communities grant, the CVS Caremark Community grant, the Esther Simmons Charitable Trust, the Healthpath Foundation of Ohio Community Connection grant with matching funds from the Hess Corp. and Bill and Juanita Welsh and the American Nurse Practitioner Foundation-Novo Nordisk grant.

"If we can close the gaps and make sure the patient is being completely treated, it is a major success," stated Lucas.

"We have a lot happening this spring, including our eighth-annual gala set for April 27. We are constantly working to raise funds so we can expand our services to the uninsured in Jefferson County. There is still a real need among many of our residents," said Quillen.

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