It’s a question doctors often ask their patients at some point during a medical exam. For those with mental disabilities, it’s not an easy question to answer.
“Our loved ones should be able to get the health care they need and deserve,” said Regina Daniel, whose son has a mental disability.
To address this issue, Henderson-based Touro University created a mobile clinic that will travel to the four Opportunity Village campuses — East Lake Mead Parkway, West Oakey Boulevard, West Craig Road and South Buffalo Drive — to provide health care services.
The mobile clinic will travel throughout the week and set up appointments for Opportunity Village’s OVIPs — how they refer to those who have mental disabilities.
“This is making a difference in the lives of the people we love,” Daniel said.
The mobile clinic launched Nov. 10 at the Englestad Campus, 6050 S Buffalo Drive.
Shelley Berkley, CEO and senior provost for Touro, said the college spent the last three years looking to address gaps in accessibility to health care.
“It doesn’t make sense to have people travel to you for their health care,” she said. “This provides care to the most vulnerable among us because all human beings need basic health care.”
She added the traditional brick-and-mortar clinic model can be inaccessible for some communities, which is why Touro considered a mobile unit.
The college created its first mobile clinic to do outreach in other vulnerable communities such as the homeless population and domestic violence survivors who are in shelters.
Berkley said outreach to people with mental disabilities was a logical next step.
“It seemed like it was the missing piece of the Opportunity Village puzzle,” she added.
Daniel’s child has gone to Opportunity Village for years. Daniel said it’s hard to for those with mental disabilities to find doctors and medical care.
Even if they find doctors, they are presented with other obstacles from unaccommodating waiting rooms to doctors who are nervous to treat patients.
“Sometimes, they don’t know what to do,” she said.
John Dougherty, dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Touro, said this also serves as a learning tool for medical students.
“This gives the students an amazing educational experience to be able to deal with people unable to communicate what’s wrong,” he said.
While the mobile clinic is staffed with medical practitioners, it also has students who get to learn firsthand what it’s like to work with patients with special needs.
Vanessa Halvorsen, student body president at Touro University who will be working inside the clinic, said this is why she is pursuing a degree in medicine.
When she worked with people with mental disabilities at the Special Olympics, she realized something.
“One of the parents told me they feared if their child got a sprained ankle,” she said, “they were worried if they took them to a doctor, they wouldn’t know what to do.”
Since the same staff will rotate shifts, Dougherty said another benefit is that OVIPs at will get to be with some of the medical crew that comes to the campus.
Berkley said the university is already looking at creating another mobile clinic.
“We don’t need just one clinic,” Berkley said. “We need a fleet.”
To reach Henderson View reporter Michael Lyle, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 702-387-5201. Find him on Twitter: @mjlyle.