Thanks to a $200,000 donation from singer Paul Simon, co-founder of the Children’s Health Fund (CHF) and his wife, singer Edie Brickell, the School of Nursing at UT Health San Antonio is providing vital health care services to Texas Gulf Coast residents affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The CHF is a nonprofit organization that provides health care to children and families aboard mobile medical units around the country. The CHF has more than 50 community-based mobile projects across the U.S.
Teams of faculty and students from the School of Nursing are traveling each week to Rockport, Texas, and surrounding communities to perform community needs assessments, health evaluation of individuals and families, vaccinations, health care coordination, case management, counseling and other necessary health services.
The relief effort is coordinated by Cindy Sickora, D.N.P., RN, vice dean for practice and engagement in the School of Nursing. Tracey Page, D.N.P., RN, FNP-BC, is providing oversight for implementation of the initiative, and David Byrd, Ph.D., associate dean for admissions and student services in the School of Nursing, was instrumental in identifying the coastal communities most devastated by the storm.
Rockport, Fulton, Holiday Beach, Copano and other nearby communities suffered from the initial storm impact and are medically underserved. Harvey hit the communities as a Category 4 hurricane, causing mass destruction, especially in Rockport.
Dr. Sickora; Dr. Page; Adelita Cantu, Ph.D., RN; and other School of Nursing faculty members assessed the area’s most pressing health care needs, established a command center for health care delivery and identified appropriate locations for provision of services.
A quarter of Rockport’s residents are over 65, and access to health care in the area is limited. Among other preventive measures, the School of Nursing is providing vaccines to senior adults, who often allow immunizations such as tetanus to lapse. Hepatitis A, shingles, influenza and pneumonia vaccines are also being administered.
In early September, Drs. Byrd and Sickora met with Irwin Redlener, M.D., president emeritus and co-founder of the Children’s Health Fund, to tour Rockport and surrounding communities where Harvey made landfall.
“Mr. Simon’s vision is to give health and social services to the area by the simplest means,” Dr. Sickora said. “We assured Dr. Redlener that we will do our utmost to help members of the area’s communities, most especially the uninsured, children and the elderly.”
The teams are engaged in door-to-door canvassing of neighborhoods to ensure the well-being of homebound senior adults and others. During these visits, health information is being distributed.
Another project goal is to identify community mental health needs.
The project will last four months and reach a minimum of 1,000 individuals in need of health resources by the end of December, according to a document outlining the initiative. By year’s end, all services will be transitioned to sustainable health care delivery systems in the area.
“We are grateful for the confidence that Paul Simon and Edie Brickell have in our school, and we are looking forward to our new partnership with the Children’s Health Fund,” said Eileen T. Breslin, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing.
“We are truly honored to accept this grant to aid the delivery of care in Rockport and the region because our school is committed to providing compassionate care to those most in need,” Dr. Breslin said. “We have experienced, dedicated nurses who can deliver the competent care that people need.”
Faculty from the School of Nursing have been working with disaster relief teams for many years as part of a population health curriculum, and many faculty were part of relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
“This type of service is in our DNA as nurse leaders,” Dr. Breslin said.
An important component of the disaster relief program is the unique educational experience being gained by the participating students, said Dr. Byrd, the student participation coordinator.