Volunteers of America outreach goes mobile, high tech

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The goal of the Volunteers of America has always been to meet the needs of the communities in which they serve, but now it’s going high tech in its rural health outreach.

With a brand new mobile rural health outreach van, veterans who have a hard time reaching their doctor’s appointments can meet with a registered nurse for screenings or health information, but if need be, they can also meet with their doctor via satellite.

“The Volunteers of America of North Louisiana was one of five selected by the VA Office of Rural Health to receive a two year grant to create and come up with targeted driven solutions to reach veterans in rural and underserved communities,” Tricia Jowell, VOA director of community and media relations, said. “Some of the barriers are transportation to VA appointments or community-based outreach clinics, waiting once they get to their appointments or not being able to see their provider at all, and parking and benefits.”

The van comes equipped with a soundproof room where a patient can discuss their health issues in private with their physician, and with high definition technology, the video quality of the visit is crystal clear. It makes it easier for physicians to examine their patients for things such as dermatology issues where the physician can clearly see the problem area.

Through this mobile unit, veterans who may not have had easy access to the Overton Brooks VA hospital may be able to use the services offered without having to go to the hospital.

Cori Harrington, RN, will be able to provide veterans with patient education, health assessments and some medical services like screenings for diabetes, blood pressure, body mass index and smoking cessation as well as medication management.

“We’re still fine tuning, so there’s going to be more and more that we can offer,” Harrington said. “We just have to get in there and see what the needs are.”

An estimated 440,000 veterans are served in the Overton Brooks VA Hospital area.

Suzie Moseley, case manager for north and central Louisiana says they deal with a lot of veterans seeking mental health services.

Many veterans come home from overseas suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and many times, she says, there are other issues connected to that such as substance abuse. Suicide rates are higher among veterans than any other demographic, she says.

VOA, a nationwide organization founded in 1896 in New York City, offers an array of services for veterans regarding their health care, housing, job retention and others.

Another service offered is Veterans Treatment Court, where veterans diagnosed with substance abuse and accused of nonviolent crimes to work out their sentence through treatment, counseling and community service while being monitored by the court.

To clarify, Jowell says, all these services are available to both peacetime and combat veterans. Moseley says as long as they have their DD214 and have separated from the armed forces with anything other than a dishonorable discharge, then they are eligible for services.

When VOA was originally formed, they offered a shelter for women and children and offered adoption services until the 1990s, says Jowell. VOA reached north Louisiana in 1935.

“A lot of our services were adoption services,” Jowell said. “We no longer do adoption services, because just as time keeps going, the needs of the community change. Today, we focus really on four primary areas: children and families, senior adults, people with disabilities, and veterans.”
Veterans’ services began in 2010.

For more information, or if you are a veteran and wish to make an appointment at the United Way Center, email Moseley at suzie.moseley@voanorthla.org or call 1-800-222-3196. For more information about the services offered, visit their website at www.voanorthla.org. Their office is located at 360 Jordan St., in Shreveport.

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