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Mission: 'Ozark Wellness' coming in July


HARRISON — A contingent of US Army Reserve officers and staff were in Harrison Tuesday, March 19, planning for an Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) mission officially named Ozark Wellness. This medical mission to be carried out at the Jasper School and Kingston School campuses will provide training opportunities to Army Reserve medical units while providing incidental benefits to local residents via no-cost healthcare.
Services to be offered will include optometry, health exams, dental, veterinary care, public health education, behavioral health care and even religious services. Care will be delivered by credentialed healthcare providers and no one will be turned away. Neither insurance nor identification documents are required.
Attending the planning meeting held at the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District (NWAEDD) conference room were Master Sergeant Rebecca Rhodes, 811th Hospital Center Operations/Planner; Major Tanee Nimsakont, 325th Field Hospital Operations/Planner; Captain Ryan R. Kiger, G-2/5 Plans, 807th Medical Command and Lieutenant Colonel Kristin Porter, public affairs officer, 807th Medical Command.
Tina M. Cole, community development coordinator with NWAEDD based in Harrison, has been working with the Army Reserve officials and arranged the mission's planning meetings.
The mission's official schedule is set for July 14-28.
Vehicles carrying the needed supplies along with mobile kitchens will begin arriving on the 14th. Staff will arrive at the campuses on the 14th and will begin providing services at noon on the 16th with a soft opening for local volunteers. The first full day of services to the public will begin on the 17th and providers will continue seeing patients through the 25th.
Physicians and other providers will be coming from units located across the United States. Their individual certifications, credentials and privileges will be transferred to and recognized in Arkansas.
About 100 military personnel will be involved in the mission. They will be divided between the two campuses according to need. Patient hours will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day with patient in-take ending at 4 p.m., said Nimsakont.
Providers will be offering the same services at both locations so residents can have access to the services they need closest to home.
The infrastructure at both campuses are adequate for the mission's needs, said Rhodes. There will be no need for additional electricity supplies, water or restrooms.
Historically, the medical missions are able to see between 80 and 90 patients per day. Dental and optometry services are the most sought by community participants. The veterinarian staffs usually see 12-15 pets per day. The number depends on how many pets show up just for medical exams and how many are brought for spay or neutering procedures, said Nimsakont.

The mission's providers will also work closely with local healthcare clinics and providers. In some cases a patient may be referred to a local physician or even a specialist as required. Also arrangements will be made with local providers and local pharmacies to help patients who need prescribed drugs.
Emphasis of the mission is placed on the partnership between the military and the various sectors of the local communities receiving the services, said Porter.
Due to the rural and isolated nature of the areas surrounding the two school campuses, transportation is seen as possibly being the greatest obstacle to the mission's success. Cole said North Arkansas Transit System (NATS) is being counted on to help bring patients to the campuses. Other transportation options might include school buses or community ride sharing efforts.
While mission personnel will have access to breakfast and lunch each day, they will only be provided with Meals Ready to Eat (MRE's) for supper. They would appreciate volunteer organizations from within the community to provide a hot end of each day meal, said Porter.
Cole said it would be nice to have volunteers on the campuses during the mission offering child care for parents while they secure the services they need.
Local food pantries may be asked to offer patients food, water or refreshments during the IRT.
Veterans of these missions are excited to have the opportunity to attend another one. First timers often end the mission with a feeling of fulfillment. They are not only getting the training they need, but they are also giving a service to the local community, said Kiger.
Kiger said communities apply for the IRT through of Office of the Secretary of Defense. In this case NWAEDD, through the individual efforts of Cole, has made multiple applications in the past to bring an IRT to the Jasper and Kingston communities. The number of missions is determined by the department's budget. Missions are matched with the community partners.
Several planning sessions like Tuesdays are held to coordinate the mission. Cole said a meeting between the mission representatives and local stakeholders may be included.
A Distinguished Visitor's Day usually takes place during the mission in which state and local officials along with other community stakeholders are taken on a tour of the facilities. They are given information about the community needs the mission uncovered and how those needs can be addressed.