URI, State officials dedicate Rhode to Health mobile unit

Vehicle, staffed by Academic Health Collaborative students and faculty members, to provide HIV screenings, general health care in communities.

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Rhode to Health ribbon cutting
THE UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND’S Rhode to Health mobile unit will perform HIV/AIDS screening for hard-to-reach populations in the state. Pictured above at the Nov. 28 ribbon-cutting for the mobile unit are, from left, R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott; Rebecca Boss, Director of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals; University of Rhode Island Provost Donald DeHayes; URI President David Dooley; Douglas Dusharm, R.I. HIV Community Advisory Board member; HIV Provision of Care & Special Populations Unit Director Paul Loberti; URI Health Institute Director Bryan Blissmer; and URI College of Health Sciences Dean Gary Liguori. Photo by Randy Osga

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 28, 2018 — Health experts from the University of Rhode Island Academic Health Collaborative will increase their outreach into the community, screening residents for HIV/AIDS and providing basic clinical and behavioral health care, after dedicating its new Rhode to Health mobile unit today.

The 37-foot vehicle features two soundproof, multi-use exam rooms and an intake and screening area, along with a restroom, medical refrigerator/freezer, space to perform blood tests and standard equipment found in a typical medical office. Funded by the state of Rhode Island through the Ryan White Foundation, the $400,000 vehicle, unveiled during a ceremony at the university’s Robert J. Higgins Welcome Center, will primarily be used to screen potentially at-risk residents in the community for HIV.

“We’re partnering with the state to involve URI in screening and treatment for HIV, while also providing general health care in the community,” said Bryan Blissmer, director of the URI Health Institute, part of the Academic Health Collaborative. “The bulk of the work will revolve around HIV screening and care, in coordination with the Ryan White Foundation. By having clinical capacity between nursing and pharmacy, and behavioral health capacity with psychology, we’ll have a team that can provide comprehensive, multi-disciplinary care in the community.”

Faculty members and students from the URI Colleges of Health Sciences, Nursing and Pharmacy will provide health screenings and basic care, potentially including blood pressure checks and flu shot clinics, among other health outreach efforts.

The URI Health Institute will work with the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the state Department of Health to identify areas in Rhode Island where the unit can be put to its best use. It is expected to be on the road two to three days per week throughout the state.

“The Rhode to Health mobile unit will be an important complement to the HIV prevention work that the Rhode Island Department of Health has led with the community to make sure that treatment as prevention services are accessible in as many ZIP codes throughout the state as possible,” said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. “The Rhode to Health mobile unit will also be critical in helping Rhode Island’s progress toward its 90-90-90 Campaign goals, which are to ensure that, by 2020, 90 percent of Rhode Islanders with HIV know their status, are connected to vital medical care, and have suppressed viral loads. All Rhode Islanders deserve to live a long, full, healthy life.”

The URI Health Institute, part of the Academic Health Collaborative, recently acquired the mobile medical unit to help increase the collaborative’s and the state’s outreach into the community.

“Rhode to Health is one of the many exciting projects we offer through the Centers of Excellence Integrating HIV Support and Treatment (CoExIST) grant,” said Paul Loberti, director of the R.I. HIV Provision of Care & Special Populations Unit. “A mobile unit allows the state and its partners to better serve Rhode Islanders who do not have direct access to medical care, feel stigmatized when walking into a clinic or have other issues preventing them from seeking care. Aside from HIV early intervention services and other health screenings and testing, the mobile health unit has the capability to offer counseling for people living with HIV and other behavioral health-related services. This will have a big impact on the community and help to end the AIDS epidemic in the state of Rhode Island.”