Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada has a mobile vaccination unit that has visited all 16 counties to deliver needed vaccines across the state.
The van brings vaccines as well as other resources, including help applying for benefits, to reach people where they are.
Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada is one of 180 grantee organizations working to expand COVID and flu vaccine access nationwide through NCOA's Vaccine Uptake Initiative.
For Tammy Crabtree, vaccination is a personal decision: “Everybody's health decisions are their own. And I want to be there for the people who need me. I want to be there to educate people, if they have questions. That’s why this vaccine initiative has been so important to me.”
Because of the efforts of Crabtree and her Northern Nevada colleagues, older adults and people with disabilities across the state—and in very rural areas—are getting access to much-needed health interventions, including COVID and flu vaccines.
Crabtree knows a thing or two about vaccinations and the critical role they play in public health. A recipient of Nevada’s Silver Syringe Award, she was also recently awarded the Immunization Champions Award by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She works as Director of Nursing Programs at Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada, a grantee in NCOA’s Vaccine Uptake Initiative.
Meeting people where they are
Crabtree and her colleagues are literally on the road every week, going to every corner of the state to provide COVID and flu vaccinations. The rolling mobile clinic has traversed all 16 Nevada counties.
"I think this initiative has really helped to open doors,” Crabtree said.
Many seniors in rural Nevada originally felt that they didn’t need the COVID vaccination because they were so rural. And then once they saw that they needed it, they couldn't get it . . . because they were so rural. With this initiative, we’re able to bring the vaccinations to them.”
The team also recognizes that there are many other disparities in the rural parts of their state. Food insecurity, for one, is high, with supply chains still not back to normal from the pandemic.
“So we bring food with us and other resources, and we help people apply for benefits since a lot of people just know what resources are out there.”* On a recent visit, Crabtree and her team helped people with many things, from refilling their propane and applying for energy assistance programs to pay their electric bills, to learning about stress reduction and diabetes. Crabtree and her colleagues also connected people with food programs in their area.
A whole-person approach
This focus on wraparound services is a hallmark of many community-based organizations across the country and Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada demonstrates how to provide these services in rural areas. Sometimes, a wellness initiative such as the vaccine project is a provides the opportunity to understand what other services a person may need. As Tammy noted: “Having community-based organizations involved in immunization projects is more than just about the immunization. It's really essential as a part of a whole kind of package for ensuring that older adults are really taken care of in so many different ways.”
This whole-person approach is in line with the DNA of Catholic Charities across the country, an organization that serves up to 15 million people each year in the U.S. and in five territories. According to Ben Wortham, Vice President of Behavioral Health Integration at Catholic Charities USA: “Staff and practitioners work with many vulnerable populations, including seniors, for whom they provide a range of services, including case management, counseling, respite care, adult day centers, legal services, senior housing, home health services, nursing homes, hospice, and home-delivered meal services.”
Saving lives by partnering with senior centers and places of worship
The distances in rural areas, coupled with the fact that many towns are small, mean that Catholic Charities relies on partners such as senior centers and places of worship to help identify older adults in need.
It isn’t a stretch to say that the vaccine initiative has saved lives. On one recent visit to Tonopah to deliver vaccines, one of the team nurses was alerted to a woman the church had not heard from recently.
The nurse went to the woman’s home and found her on her couch, unable to move because of an illness and certainly too sick to get to the nearest hospital, which is 100 miles away. The woman had been without food and water for days.
The nurse was able to call an ambulance and get the woman to the hospital. As Crabtree noted: “That connection would not have happened if we hadn’t been part of this vaccine initiative.”
Through the vaccine initiative, Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada is providing wraparound services and care to thousands of individuals in rural Nevada.
Get vaccinated to protect yourself, and others
Health officials recommend the most updated COVID vaccine for almost everyone, but adults 50 and older are particularly at risk for being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19.
“Older Americans are still at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19," said NCOA's Chief Customer Officer Josh Hodges. "Help protect yourself and the people around by keeping up to date on your vaccinations.”
Check our list of Vaccine Uptake Initiative grantees for local organizations that can help you get your vaccinations. You can also search for flu and COVID vaccine appointments near you by ZIP code at Vaccines.gov.
*Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada is also a benefits enrollment center receiving funding from NCOA.
Photo of Tammy Crabtree, far left, with her mobile outreach team courtesy Catholic Charities of Northen Nevada