By: Follow South Jersey Staff
STRATFORD, N.J. – While COVID-19 vaccination rates climbed throughout New Jersey, certain segments of the population – including housing insecure adults, those with substance use disorders and the children of those individuals – were falling behind, leading to potentially dangerous health outcomes among those who are most vulnerable to serious or fatal complications from the virus, according to Rowan University.
In response, the New Jersey Department of Health has awarded a $991,513 grant to the NeuroMusculoskeletal Institute (NMI) of the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM) to increase access to COVID-19 testing, education and vaccinations for underserved and marginalized pediatric and adult communities in South Jersey.
Led by Dr. Richard Jermyn, director of the NMI, the program will collaborate with the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office, the Spanish Community Center, Rowan Medicine and other community-based organizations to, initially, reach at-risk residents in Atlantic, Gloucester and Camden counties.
“Our initial focus will be on 10 predominantly African American and Hispanic communities that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognize as having rates of poverty, substance use, and chronic diseases that drive COVID-related health disparities,” Dr. Jermyn said. “For a variety of reasons – including homelessness, lack of transportation, substance use disorders, and mental illness – these patients are less likely to seek out health care services in traditional settings. So, this project will seek them out, bringing lifesaving COVID vaccines and other resources to them.”
The project leverages the experience of Rowan Medicine’s “Operation Save Lives” that delivered nearly 60,000 vaccination over the past year through a Stratford-based vaccination center, pop-up clinics, a 35-foot mobile medical van, and house calls for homebound residents.
Physicians, nurse practitioners and medical students aligned with the new project will extend outreach projects to faith-based organizations, homeless shelters, residential substance use treatment agencies and Hammonton-area farms.
Included in the outreach efforts will be extended clinical hours at existing Rowan Medicine offices and a program that provides rides to both Rowan Medicine offices and pop-up clinic locations where COVID vaccines are available.
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