CHARLESTON, W.Va.--West Virginia's veterans are benefiting from a new, state-of-the-art mobile health unit designed to increase health care access in rural areas.
Last July, the state received one of four mobile clinics as part of the Rural Mobile Health Care Program.
The $400,000 vehicle is a specially designed, self-contained truck capable of housing preventative care and mental health screenings, routine primary care services, and influenza and pneumonia vaccinations.
"We can do pretty much anything the clinics can do," said Criss Bragg, a registered nurse who works in the mobile unit. "We don't rely on anything other than the gas station."
While the state's main Veteran's Affairs hospital is in Clarksburg, and the state has four Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC) in Braxton, Tucker, Wood and Monongalia counties, Bragg said many of the state's veterans don't utilize the VA system because of the rural nature of the state.
"West Virginia has the largest veterans population per capita, but unfortunately only 30 to 35 percent are enrolled in the VA system," Bragg said. "The vast majority don't take advantage of benefits. With this, we can travel to them and get them enrolled in the system."
Bragg said the mobile unit is on the road three days a week and typically sees about 50 to 60 patients over that time period.
"We received the vehicle last July and have been on the road ever since," Bragg said. "The veterans absolutely love it. Some of them can't make it to the hospital or can't tolerate the ride.
He said the unit services 19 counties in the state with the goal of improving coverage in the most rural areas.