Last fall, CHRISTUS Healthy Living Mobile Clinics partnered with Catholic Charities and Interfaith Ministries to aid in the resettlement efforts of Afghan refugees arriving in Houston. While housing and food were immediate needs, healthcare was equally as critical. Prior to arrival in Houston, families came through military bases, where they received healthcare services including initial doses of required vaccinations.
One urgent need upon arrival in Houston was additional vaccine doses for school-age children. With almost all of the families having school-age children, there was an urgency of getting them fully-vaccinated so that they could begin attending school. In November, Catholic Charities reached out to CHRISTUS Healthy Living Mobile Clinics, which provides health screenings and vaccinations to underserved communities in hard-to-reach areas. The large numbers of families and the sizes of each family were posing a challenge for stationary clinics.
“The issue was that there were very large families, many with 10 family members,” Nancy Bocanegra, CHRISTUS Healthy Living Mobile Clinics Supervisor, said. “Any given provider is going to have a challenge with families of that size.”
Transportation was also an issue. As currently one of only two mobile clinic programs offering services in the Houston area due to the pandemic, CHRISTUS Healthy Living Mobile Clinics had the ability to take the vaccinations directly to the families. To continue to meet the needs of already scheduled facilities, the Mobile Clinics began with a commitment of once a month to care for the refugees. That quickly changed. Now they are providing services multiple times a week for the refugees of Catholic Charities, in addition to Interfaith Ministries.
The Mobile Clinics are partnering with community centers or churches that are within walking distance of the apartment complexes where the refugees are living. “If we are unable to locate a partner facility, we are taking the vaccines directly to the apartment complexes,” Bocanegra said.
Currently, the Mobile Clinics are seeing between 80 and 100 children a week. “Right now we are focusing on the school-age children. Once we are able to see to all of them, we will begin offering services to younger children and parents.”
Since starting with the refugees, the Mobile Clinics have quadrupled their vaccine stock. “When the state has been unable to accommodate our vaccine needs, CHRISTUS Foundation for HealthCare has stepped in and purchased the needed stock,” Bocanegra said. In addition to the vaccines, CHRISTUS Foundation has also purchased the extra supplies needed to administer the vaccines.
“Our role is to take care of the community,” Bocanegra said. “This is what we do and are very grateful to CHRISTUS Foundation for their support in this great effort to get the Afghan refugee children a healthy start to their new lives.”