Health departments in Christian, Todd and Hopkins counties have joined forces to purchase a vehicle that will serve the three communities as a mobile health unit and which could provide a variety of services to residents in their own neighborhoods.

"It's just an easy way to take our services out into the community and have everything we need," observed Amanda Bassingthwaite, the Christian County Health Department's instructional design and marketing specialist, of services that could include vaccinations, physical exams or needle exchanges, in areas where they are offered.

"Really, the possibilities are endless," she continued. "It's just an extended way to provide our services in the community."

Bassingthwaite said officials at the Christian County, Todd County and Hopkins County health departments saw an opportunity and pooled their resources together to take advantage of a good deal.

The three departments work really well together, she said, and have seen similar circumstances across the state where departments have come together to provide needle exchanges in a mobile unit.

They have been working in the past few months to acquire the mobile unit and expect it to have its inaugural run in the next four to six weeks.

Bassingthwaite said the departments will develop a schedule and utilize the unit as needed. Right now it is being equipped with signage that will

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identify the vehicle to residents in the three communities.

The white van will be known as the Western Kentucky Mobile Public Health Unit, and a tagline included on the vehicle will further identify its services as "public health on the move," Bassingthwaite said.

She said the vehicle is set up on the inside as a mini clinic, equipped with cabinets as well as an exam room and table in the back.

She described it as crisp and clean, and Bassingthwaite noted that the new mobile health unit could be utilized to target areas where people have a lack of access to transportation or to health care.

"We could go to them," she observed, noting that officials will make an announcement anytime the van does go on-site at a specific location and will target their intended populations with advertising fliers.

Bassingthwaite also encouraged the public to make suggestions as to how the van might be used, and she said anyone with questions about the new mobile health unit may call the Christian County Health Department at 270-887-4160. Additionally, call the Todd County Health Department at 270-265-2362 or Hopkins County at 27-821-5242.

Bassingthwaite said officials don't know of any other health departments in Kentucky that are offering mobile health units to provide public health services, but she said there are several mobile health units that are offering needle exchanges in the state.

"We're really excited about it," she said. "It's really a cutting edge idea in Kentucky. Not a lot of health departments are doing it."

Individuals interested in the new unit's services should look for fliers advertising its various offerings as well as announcements in the media.

Services will be announced in advance, Bassingthwaite said.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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