GuardCare event helps nearly 300 people get healthcare


MARYSVILLE — The Union County Health Department bustled with nearly 150 soldiers from the Ohio National Guard. These soldiers, who are nurses, doctors, paramedics, and other medical professionals when not in uniform, helped health department staff transform the 940 London Ave. building in Marysville from a county office building to a full-service free clinic in just under four hours.

“It was a little surreal to see so many soldiers working alongside of our staff to implement the emergency response plans we’ve worked on for years,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Jason Orcena. “Very quickly, I saw this event was going to truly benefit our community, not just by providing free health services over two days, but by helping us to practice the very plans that will be critical in responding to a public health emergency within our community.”

The event Orcena is referring to was GuardCare, a two-day free healthcare event held Aug. 12-13 at the Union County Health Department. While the event was a training exercise for the health department and the Ohio National Guard, it also provided free healthcare to 285 people over two days. Free health services included vaccinations, a visit with a primary care doctor, lab work, dental, hearing and vision screenings, child development screenings, physicals, women’s health services, and much more. In total, there were 14 health stations available to participants. And maybe most importantly, participants were connected at the event to local primary care doctors, mental health services, insurance enrollment, and assistance programs for hearing aids, eyeglasses, prescriptions, and nutrition.

“You don’t always know the impact you have on someone until you see and hear it first-hand,” said Orcena. “We heard from a local farming couple. Two hard working people whose small children are now without health insurance because of changes in their insurance plan. They were able to get physicals for their kids, visit with a pediatrician, and get recommended vaccinations. GuardCare gave them a small piece of mind during a very stressful situation.”

GuardCare is an annual event supported by the Ohio National Guard and the Ohio Department of Health. The first GuardCare event was held in Jackson County in 1996. GuardCare provides free healthcare to Ohioans, and serves as a training exercise for the Ohio National Guard and local communities. Communities across Ohio apply to host GuardCare. Applications are reviewed and granted by the Ohio Department of Health based on community need.

“We are thrilled to serve the community here and work with our partners in the medical community. We have a duty and a mission in the state … to give aid to civil authorities in emergencies. This [GuardCare] is a way for us to meet the folks out in the community and partner with them before the disaster occurs. That is very important to us,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Digiacomo. “It is also important to us to engage with the community because as time goes by and with the wars that are going on, sometimes there is a divide between the soldiers and the community. This lets us get back into the community, back to our roots, back to our partnership with the civilian community.”

The Union County Health Department applied to bring GuardCare to Union County in 2012. The need for GuardCare was based upon data identifying Union County as a medically underserved area, and because much of the county is still a rural community that can experience difficulties accessing healthcare. These designations combined with the following five key health indicators, triggered the Union County Health Department to bring GuardCare to our residents.

1. The rate of uninsured children in Union County was higher than the state rate. Union County’s rate for children and adults without insurance coverage for vision, dental, and/or prescriptions was also higher than the state rate.

2. Nearly half of all local emergency room visits were by populations with financial barriers preventing them from seeking primary care.

3. Vaccine preventable disease rates, specifically pertussis and varicella, were higher in Union County than state averages.

4. Union County sexually transmitted infection rates, especially Chlamydia, were higher than state averages.

5. Local infant mortality rates at the time of application were higher than state rates.

“At the time we applied to host GuardCare, we were also working to bring a Community Health Center to Union County,” said Shawn Sech, GuardCare event coordinator and director of Health Promotion and Planning for the Union County Health Department. “Our goal was that both of these endeavors could significantly reduce barriers to accessing healthcare for those residents who are uninsured or underinsured.”

The Union County Health Department’s application to host GuardCare was accepted in 2013, but there was a waitlist until 2017. During this waiting period, Sech and other health department staff visited the GuardCare event in Noble County in 2016. Planning for the Union County GuardCare event began in November 2016.

GuardCare in Union County was made possible by the local support of both the Union County Health Department and Memorial Health, and state support from the Ohio Department of Health.

“Bringing GuardCare to Union County would not have been possible had it not been for the commitment from Memorial Health and the Ohio Department of Health. Memorial Health provided support for all the lab services offered at GuardCare, and the Ohio Department of Health donated all vaccine for the event. Staff at Memorial Hospital lab also worked long hours on Saturday and Sunday to run all the lab specimens so we could follow up with patients in a timely manner. This support is critical to being able to host a GuardCare event.”

Additional planning partners and financial supporters for GuardCare included Bridges Community Action Partnership, Chamberlain College of Nursing, Genric Securities, Meijer, the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Union County, Mid-Ohio Radiology, the Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities, and the Union County Emergency Management Agency. Supplies for GuardCare were generously donated by Cromwell Dental Care, Culligan of Marysville, Dr. Jeffrey Himler Family Dentistry, Marysville Division of Fire, Nestle Research & Development, Walmart and Kroger.

“We can’t thank these partners who contributed funds, man power, and supplies to the event. Without each of you, we could not have been able to provide this opportunity for our community,” said Orcena.

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This young lady receives a vaccination from a Union County Health Department nurse Kim Prior.
http://www.plaincity-advocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2017/08/web1_VaccinationKimPriorpiccol.jpgThis young lady receives a vaccination from a Union County Health Department nurse Kim Prior. Contributed photo | Union County Health Department

This little girl just completed a health screening with this Ohio National Guard medical provider.
http://www.plaincity-advocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2017/08/web1_HealthScreeningGuardpiccol.jpgThis little girl just completed a health screening with this Ohio National Guard medical provider. Contributed photo | Union County Health Department

This gentleman receives a vaccination from Ohio National Guard soldier.
http://www.plaincity-advocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2017/08/web1_VaccinationGuardpiccol.jpgThis gentleman receives a vaccination from Ohio National Guard soldier. Contributed photo | Union County Health Department

Blood is being drawn by and Ohio National Guard Airmen.
http://www.plaincity-advocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2017/08/web1_BlooddrawnGuardpiccol.jpgBlood is being drawn by and Ohio National Guard Airmen. Contributed photo | Union County Health Department

Staff report