Open Arms aims to create a healthier community

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 7:09 PM CDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Nearly 10 million cancer screenings were missed in 2020 as the coronavirus overwhelmed hospitals and medical professionals. The need for healthcare is essential as health issues continuing to rise in Mississippi.

The mobile clinical manager, Gerald Gibson with Open Arms says numbers are on the upswing that could lead to devastating effects.

“We have seen our HIV numbers rise,” Gibson said. “We have seen our STI numbers rise—syphilis is back on the rise again. Genital herpes. As well as chlamydia and gonorrhea.”

The state of Mississippi has been hit the hardest, having one of the highest rates of chlamydia and syphilis. The Mississippi State Department of Health says 70% of Mississippians reported being overweight, and 82% say they take medication for high blood pressure. The desperation for health care is there.

“With the lack of Medicaid expansion they felt like, ‘In Mississippi I cannot afford it, so I do not go. I just let these problems exist and they exacerbate,’” Gibson said.

The Open Arms Health Care Center is taking a bite out of the stigma for people to know their status with a free and confidential service. The Becoming a Healthier U program moves around the state to provide a series of preventive health screenings and mental and sexual health counseling options.

“We go to communities everywhere. We go everywhere.” Gibson said, “We let everyone know health care is your right.”

The program partnered with LOVE’s Kitchen in Meridian Thursday for screenings for glucose levels, HIV, hepatitis, body weight, STD’s, substance abuse, cancer, and blood pressure.

The program explains health risks and treatments. Seventy-five percent of clients have followed up by taking the next step to protect their health.

Allen Tisdale works directly with the homeless population with the United to End Homelessness organization. He says the becoming a healthier u mobile lab helps those who do not have the resources to go to the hospital.

“After consulting and talking with people, they have gotten treatment from that. And then partnering with a case manager in a housing program--- which is primarily what we do,” Tisdale said. “We can then monitor that and get them to doctor’s appointments from that. This is the first step in prolonging their life and giving them a good life quality.”

A limitation the program has seen are some people who find out their status think they are incapable of having any health issue.

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