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Belmont County Senior Services partner with WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital is teaming up with Belmont County Senior Services to begin providing services such as blood draws for laboratory work and health checkups at senior centers.

The announcement was made during Wednesday’s regular Belmont County Board of Commissioners meeting.

Making the announcement were Dwayne Pielech, executive director of Belmont County Senior Services; Kareen Simon, WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital vice president and chief operating officer; Joe Slavik, director of the Howard Long Wellness Center; and Leslie Thompson, senior services administrator for Belmont County Senior Services.

Pielech said the services will not all be offered at one time, but they will begin to happen a little at a time and at different senior center locations. Possible future services may include lab services, bone density screenings, mobile MRI units, vision and dental screenings, educational programming about prescription drugs and other topics, partnering with the Howard Long Wellness Center for visits to the facility or programming at the centers, health checkups at centers by a nurse practitioner or physician assistant and more. The county has 10 senior centers in various communities.

Thompson believes providing lab blood draw services at centers will be a big help to seniors, many of whom have to make longer trips to reach laboratories otherwise. She believes this may encourage seniors to get checkups with their doctors.

Simon said this program is also aimed at keeping seniors out of the hospital and emergency room.

“This is all about community outreach. … We are very excited about this partnership,” she said.

Slavik said by providing more physical activity programs, the seniors will have more options than just playing card games at the centers.

Thompson added that the Martins Ferry senior center already has been hosting a cardio drumming class and the seniors love it.

Pielech said about $800,000 on average is spent annually on the 10 county senior centers, which includes staffing them, providing transportation and utility and operational costs. For lab draws or other healthcare most seniors’ insurance will cover that cost, he noted.

“It’s going to be a slow process. … We will start at one local center and ramp up. There will be some speed bumps,” Pielech said. “And we will have to re-educate some of our workers to some degree.”

He noted the idea was borne out of lessons learned from dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioner Josh Meyer said he loves the idea of the partnership.

“I appreciate the work being done behind the scenes,” he said.

Commissioner J.P. Dutton said he is proud of the work senior services does for the county each day, and he also is supportive of the new partnership.

Commissioner Jerry Echemann believes the partnership will bring more seniors to the centers after they learn there are more “practical” programs being offered.

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