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A Tale of Two Clinics: January 8, 2024

A Tale of 2 clinics.

Last week I helped organize and do outreach at two very different vaccination clinics.

Comfort Inn, 5940 Tower Rd, Denver shelter for newcomer migrants, Monday, Jan 8, 2024, scheduled for 5pm to 8pm.

I had been contacted the week before by Ms. Dierdre (Dee Dee) Gilliam, DNP, RN, PHN, Denver Department of Public Health and Environment’s (DDPHE)’s  manager of the Epidemic COVID-19 Program and the Migrant Vaccination team. She had heard about me from my work with NACCHO and  Denver Public Schools. She wanted to meet to see how we can work together especially with the new immigrant community. DDPHE will be trained on “The Power of Cultural Validation” Do’s and Don’ts when organizing a vaccine clinic.

The Comfort Inn clinic was well organized. It was a collaborative clinic. DDPHE teamed with the Public Health Institute at Denver Health (PHIDH). They had set up a smooth process with necessary cultural validation procedures within the clinic for such diverse peoples.  By the close of business, the teams had vaccinated 71 adults in the shelter with vaccines required for immigration, like TDAP, MMR, MCV4, Varicella, Flu and Covid19. A total of 340 vaccines were provided with many adults getting multiple shots. We also provided surgical masks and Covid-19 Home test kits that I had brought from Colorado Access. 

On arrival at 4:20pm I asked the PHIDH RN program manager, Ms. McKenzie Johnson, where she could use me. People were already lining up so she asked me to manage and organize the line. No problem! 

There were at least a couple glitches though to deal with. 

One of the migrant newcomers pointed out to me that a security person was denying newcomers access to the surgical masks and Covid-19 boxes that I had brought. I immediately went over to ask him what the issue was. Turns out he had a privilege issue. That these health gifts need to be justified/earned and shouldn’t just go to any migrant who wants them. I corrected him of that notion, that we are servants of the people and protectors of public health regardless of background. He wanted to argue. Dee Dee,  70 years old with 15 years as an Army Reserve Nurse and now a tough no-nonsense DDPHE Program Manager, also came over to back me up.  She told him in so many words, “I’ve been up and I’ve been down in my career, so how do you want to do this?” He backed off. 

I also noticed there should be more people coming down from the shelter rooms to the clinic. Cultural Validation always relies on outreach and connection outside the clinic. Outreach is my forte and McKenzie agreed. The health team could handle the internal clinic procedures while I would go up to the motel rooms and harvest more to come down. 

I didn’t go up alone. I had earlier engaged one of the Venezuelan newcomers, we’ll say his name was Alex, with his anxiety and questions about vaccination, especially for MCV4. What was it? Why did he need it? And he clued me that many migrant newcomers were suspicious of our clinic. “We know we’re not wanted here. How can we know you are not trying to kill us with these vaccines?” I helped him with each question, even using Google on the phone to show him how vaccines protect lives. He got the shot.

 I asked him, could he go with me into the shelter, knock on doors, and help his companion newcomers know that they needn’t be afraid because vaccines would protect their health after their mutually harsh journeys. Alex and I made a great team. He would knock on doors and, as one of their own, be the front man in making the ask. I would back him up answering any questions, especially “How do we know you aren’t poisoning us?” Alex and I were able to bring down at least 35 more newcomers to the clinic. 

I was thrilled to contribute this way. With DDPHE and PHIDH doing an excellent job running the clinic, I could do what I really love best. Being with the people. See pics below. 

But I was saddened to see the deplorable conditions of most of the rooms. Rooms meant for one family were now overcrowded with multiple different apprehensive families under stressful conditions with few resources other than what Denver could provide. I was encouraged that I could bring hope, in at least this little way, to them.

Place Bridge Academy, 7125 Cherry Creek North Drive, Denver, January 11, 2024, scheduled for 3pm to 6pm. 

A few days after the Comfort Inn Shelter clinic, PHIDH (Public Health Institute at Denver Health) again brought vaccination health to a community. This time to Place Bridge Academy, a Denver school with a very low childhood vax compliance rate and over 600 mostly BIPOC students (many migrants). We came to vaccinate as many kids as we could as well as their families. See attached flier.

With support from Denver Public School leaders ( See pictures attached), I provided Cultural Validation training to Place Bridge staff since I expected their support given the hand in hand integration of education and health. Staff showed interest but were too busy with other duties to be hands-on with planning, outreach, organizing support of the clinic other than to offer the auditorium. As I had discovered earlier, some schools don’t actually believe in the hand in hand relationship between education and health. Some are content with gaps between school administration and health teams. The school nurse at Place Bridge turned down requests from her fellow school nurse working with PHIDH and me for estimates on vaccines needed (she said releasing such information violated procedures). Leaving PHIDH with best guesses on quantities of vaccines to bring.

But I found wonderful new allies to work with from the Denver School Foundation Community Hubs. Place Bridge was lucky to have the Southeast Community Hub housed on site. Along with the Far Northeast Community Hub, they united with PHIDH as we provided not only vaccinations and surgical masks and Covid-19 test kits from Colorado Access, but also a vaccine party atmosphere with clothing, backpacks and food from the Hubs. Joy and trust in health came to the Place Bridge community that evening. See pics below. 

With our strong outreach and love, families came and felt welcome. Some started lining up at 11am. The clinic was non-stop until 8pm. While most children did get all the multiple vaccines they needed for school compliance at the clinic, we did run out of certain vaccines and had to make referrals to our next school clinic (Abraham Lincoln High School on January 18). In all, we provided 400 vaccines, including 53 adult vaccines through the 317 Program.

This has been a tale of 2 vaccination health clinics.

We provided almost 700 vaccines through these 2 clinics.

They were both staffed by the PHIDH vaccination team (with DDPHE at the Comfort Inn), serving the BIPOC communities. Working with new allies, utilizing  cultural validation strategies, the two clinics were both successful in a methodical way in not only vaccination but also in creating trust.

Because one was at a shelter and the other at a school they had different challenges to overcome to be successful. Both needed to “…pivot, get creative, change their processes, modify their message, make new partnerships…” and never give up.

When do this, we public health providers can move the equity needle “One School, One Vaccine at a Time”.

I appreciate the recognition  of PHIDH Clinic Administrator, Ms. Lisa Filipczak:

“Julissa, Thanks to you, DDPHE (Denver Department of Public Health and Environment), and CDPHE for your partnership and support at evening clinics for arriving migrants and DPS student families over the last week. We really appreciate your role to be a liaison with the community. Your one-on-one conversations and active door to door recruitment at the shelter truly helped to increase participation. Your partnership builds trust with the Latino community in Denver and we are very grateful for your dedication and support to community vaccination. Through our work together, we are saving lives. Muchas gracias por todos!”