Merlene Davis: Free health screenings for uninsured women in honor of Mother's Day

Herald-Leader columnistMay 7, 2014 

  • Women's Health and Wellness Day

    What: Free services from the Lexington Rescue Mission for uninsured women in need of blood pressure screenings, pap smears, clinical breast exams, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV screenings or colon cancer. Free mammograms available to any woman in Fayette County 40 and older.

    When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. May 9

    Where: Lexington Rescue Mission Outreach Center, 444 Glen Arvin Ave.

    Information: (859) 381-9600

A number of people still are not covered by a health care plan, even though the deadline to enroll under the Affordable Care Act has passed.

Lori Clemons, director of neighborhood services at Lexington Rescue Mission, said some of those uninsured are undocumented residents; some are people who simply don't have the money for premiums, preferring to pay the ACA $95 penalty; and some are waiting for their insurance to kick in.

For instance, when ex-offenders are released, Clemons said, "there is a gap of a month or two before they are covered. And when they are released, it is not with their medications. So what do they do now?"

They could go to the mission's free medical clinic for help. Last year, the clinic served 682 uninsured patients, and most people agree there will be fewer and fewer people falling into that category in years to come.

But for now, it is still a godsend, especially on Friday, when the mission — a Christian nonprofit that provides free meals, clothing, emergency assistance, housing and job training — hosts its Women's Health and Wellness Day for uninsured women.

The special day is in celebration of Mother's Day and National Women's Health Week, which starts Sunday.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, the mission, Humana, Kentucky Cancer Link, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and AIDS Volunteers Inc. will provide blood pressure screenings, pap smears, clinical breast exams, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV screenings and take-home colon cancer tests, all free.

For women 40 and older, with or without insurance, free mammograms will be available through the St. Elizabeth Digital Mobile Mammography program.

"Any woman over 40 in the county can get a mammogram free," Clemons said, adding that no co-pay is required.

Kentucky Cancer Link is providing the tests for colon cancer, which will be sent away for diagnosis.

No appointment is necessary for any of the screenings or tests.

"Hopefully it will be very welcoming," Clemons said. "There will be snacks and there will be one room set up for chair massages while they wait. Who wouldn't want that?"

Various other agencies and insurance companies will be there to hand out information.

Medical procedures will be conducted by nurse practitioners with oversight from the clinic's volunteer medical director, Clemons said.

Also, she said, there will be no men on site that day.

Since 2000, Mother's Day has marked the start of National Women's Health Week throughout the nation. The weeklong observance is coordinated through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health. It is a time when families, health organizations and communities help women focus on themselves for a change.

Women are urged to visit a health care professional for regular check-ups, to get physically active, to eat healthier, avoid negative habits like smoking, and to pay attention to their mental health.

"When I look at the women in my life," Clemons said, "they often put the needs of everybody else first. That is the mentality for some of us.

"There are things that women are affected by that men are not. If our health is out of control, it feeds negatively into our emotional health."

The wellness day is funded by a $9,300 grant from the Good Samaritan Foundation, which also helps fund clinic services for women throughout the year.

Normal clinic hours for uninsured residents of Fayette County are 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays at the mission's Outreach Center, 444 Glen Arvin Avenue.

"We want to celebrate women and also stress to them the importance of annual health exams," Clemons said.

What better way to drive that point home than to provide the services for free?

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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