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Immunization programs

Nurse Diana Kasler administers vaccinations to Dontae Dawson-Hitchcock, as his mother looks on.

Photographer: John Sattler

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Free immunization clinics deliver gift of health to community doorsteps

When local mom Teresa Montle switched her family to a health savings account two years ago, her family deductible soared to $6,000. So when it comes to her four-year old daughter's immunizations, the Childhood Immunization Program (CHIP) at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM) is a no-brainer.

"Without the free clinic we would be paying for all of (my daughter's) immunizations out of pocket, which can cost several hundred dollars each round," Montle said. "At a minimum, it has probably saved us $1,500 to $2,000."

Montle's daughter is among 1,687 area children who received free immunizations during the 2011-12 academic year through CHIP. In total, the program provided 4,166 immunizations to the community last year – services worth more than $255,000.

Created in 1994, CHIP strives to keep children in the region healthy by providing free or low-cost immunizations to protect against preventable diseases such as polio, rubella, meningitis and mumps. Free services are available to uninsured, underinsured and Medicaid-eligible children up to 19 years old and all children of Native American or Alaskan descent.

In addition to a weekly immunization clinic at Parks Hall in Athens, CHIP also utilizes mobile clinics to deliver services to the doorstep of communities in need. In 2011-12, the mobile clinics provided vaccinations to children in six towns across Appalachian Ohio.

According to CHIP's Nurse Coordinator Kim McCunn, community participation attests to the program's success.
As an example, she points to a recent clinic in Wheelersburg, Ohio: "Within five to 10 minutes, we had at least 25 families lined up waiting to get services from our mobile unit. The fact that they take advantage of our services kind of speaks for itself."

OU-HCOM's mobile clinics make monthly stops in Pike, Scioto, Muskingum and Coshocton counties. Recently, the mobile clinics have also been made available during kindergarten registrations at schools across southeast Ohio, providing required immunizations to incoming students.  

Local parents are quick to extol clinic staff.  

"The nurses give shots all day, so they're good at it – very fast, and they know all the tricks to make it quick and easy with kids," said Rachel Myers, who takes her two school-age children to the immunization clinic in Athens for convenience.

As a "Vaccines for Children" provider, CHIP receives support from the Ohio Department of Health, in addition to OU-HCOM. Adults, including Ohio University students, can also receive low-cost immunizations or access CHIP's community flu clinics regardless of income or insurance status.

"It's all about making sure that the uninsured and those that don't have access to services get those valuable immunizations that they need," said Missy Kemper, assistant director of the Area Health Education Center and Community Health Programs with OU-HCOM.

For more information on Immunization Clinics offered through Ohio University's Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, click here.

CHIP's Clinic Schedule:

Athens County:
Thursdays 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. (closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m.) in Parks Hall ground floor

Pike County:
Every third Monday on even months, 10:30 a.m. – noon, at the Family Market, Cynthiana

Scioto County:
Every third Monday on even months, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m., at the Kroger, Wheelersburg

Muskingum County
The third Friday of odd months, 10:30 a.m. – noon, at Adamsville Fire Department, Adamsville

Coshocton County
The third Friday of odd months, 3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m., Walhonding Valley Fire Department; Warsaw 

The third Saturday of odd months, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m., Elevator & Supply, New Bedford

The third Saturday of odd months, noon to 1 p.m., Millcreek Bulk Foods, Fresno