Delta Wellness Mission 2021 got underway Friday afternoon at Greenville High School and area residents are taking full advantage of its services which target the improvement of overall health.
Children and adults alike made their way in the safe, pandemic-friendly environment for basic wellness checks, sports physicals, eye exams and other essential healthcare needs.
The mission will run through Saturday with hours of operations set for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and from 1-5 p.m., Saturday.
Upon arrival, patients are screened for COVID-19, their temperatures are checked and all CDC guidelines are adhered to during the mission.
As this makes the first time the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) has been at the locations, the inaugural two-week mission provides no-cost medical services to Lake Village, Greenville and Lake Providence, Louisiana and surrounding areas.
Those services include basic dental (exams, X-rays, extractions, restorative procedures, cleanings), vision (exams, single vision glasses/prescriptions) and medical (physicals, health and wellness, mental health, physical therapy, dietician).
As of Sunday, encounters with patients have yielded a total of 748 procedures — 249 optometry; 275 dental; and 199 medical.
Delta Wellness Missions are the result of a partnership between the IRT and the Delta Regional Authority (IRA), whose belief is that health is an economic engine and will drive future economic growth.
According to the Delta Wellness Fact Sheet, IRT is a joint-service medical mission primarily composed of forces from the National Guard, Army National Guard and U.S. Navy Reserve and is augmented by members of the active-duty Air Force and Navy.
An IRT press release stated, “Communities typically provide materials and basic services (e.g. facilities), while military units contribute personnel and training resources. IRT missions produce mission ready forces, civil-military partnerships, and stronger communities.”
Overseeing the mission is Mission OIC Lieutenant Col. Michelle Underwood who said she hopes the word continues to spread about the Delta Wellness Mission.
Underwood was working to organize and launch a mission slated for this time last year, but it was cancelled due to circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said of the mission thus far, “We have seen quite a few patients start to come in. It was a little slow on the first day and it always is, but I think the word is getting out. We’re seeing a lot of patients at all three of our sights.”
One factor contributing to awareness of the mission Underwood said is personnel being able to do a lot of the procedures they were expecting to do.
“It helps when somebody has a procedure done and they go back and share it with their friends and families. So, we’ve had an increase of patients coming through and that’s really been nice,” she said.
Senior Airmen Aaliyah Lawrence, a dental technician since 2018 and in the Delta Wellness Mission, said its dental services aim to do anything that can be done to achieve chief complaints of patients’ dental concerns.
“I get to assist with cleanings, do extractions, X-rays and supplies — I’ve been helping a lot with that,” Lawrence said.
She highlighted the very first eight or 10 patients were all dental.
“Most of the time it’s more so telling people how to keep their dental hygiene up and assist with cleanings,” Lawrence said of her job. “Everything I do is medical and I love to be in patient care and just help people in any way that I can.”
Underwood also underscored the desire to help as many people as they can during the Delta Wellness Mission.
“We’re just hoping that we can reach out to as many people to get them the care they need. So, if it’s one person but they need to see all three areas we have, then we encourage that and we want to do that,” she said. “Our goal is to get them in for initial care and to be able to get them resourced back out into their communities so that they’re getting care and the communities are thriving.”
Community partnerships are heavily emphasized when it comes to the execution and success of wellness missions.
Underwood said that execution and success is determined more so by how the communities work with the IRT and DRA.
“That’s really the most important part of it — the community civil-military relationship and if we don’t have both of those working together, it’s not going to be successful on either part and that’s the most important thing,” she highlighted. “Once we’re here, we can reach out and get the other information to other people on the outside, but if we’re not working together, it’s not going to be successful.”
Back in April, DRA chief of staff, Brian Henson and program manager Christina Wade presented to the Greenville Public School District Board of Trustees on the IRT program which was established through the DRA’s partnership with the Department of Defense.
Wade noted DRA covers 252 counties saying, “When we look at how we’re designated, 241 of those counties and parishes are designated as healthcare professional shortage areas which means that there’s a lack of primary care and physicians, dentists and mental health providers.”
Wade’s research also found 244 of those counties and parishes are medically underserved which means that those counties and parishes have a high infant mortality rate and high poverty rate.
“So here in Washington County on a scale of 0 to 26 with 26 being the highest priority for the most needed, Washington County ranks 21 and in terms of medically underserved areas on a scale of 0 to 100 with zero being highest priority, Washington County ranks at 39.8,” Wade informed.
To clarify the severity of the dental health professional shortage in Washington County, she shared that the county’s high ranking for such a medical need essentially means there are 2,372 patients for every one dentist.
And, in terms of patient to physician ratio, the county has 2,311 patients to one physician, Wade’s findings indicated.
Those things considered, it seems quite evident the Delta Wellness Mission, albeit two weeks long, is providing a much needed service to Washington County and the Mississippi Delta.