Reaching Out To Those in Need

It is 6 p.m. on a Tuesday evening and dusk has fallen in the Clay Street neighborhood of Annapolis. A few youngsters still bounce basketballs on the pavement, but otherwise Washington Street is deserted. Standing out like a beacon is a brick building that looks like the schoolhouse it once was, before being transformed into the Stanton Community Center.

Stanton staffers leaving work late politely direct a visitor to a warren of brightly lit rooms on the first floor. A toy-filled reception area is populated by several young mothers whose well-behaved children play quietly nearby. A low conversational hum emanates from volunteer receptionist Kristine Campbell as she interviews a woman who has symptoms of hypertension. Campbell calls Spanish-speaking Mary Salgado, an Outreach Center assistant, for help with understanding the Hispanic client.

In the background, Faye Hunt-Anderson, R.N., case manager at the center, greets two men who have come to have their blood pressure checked, one jokingly accusing the other's driving habits as the cause for the higher reading. As Hunt-Anderson takes his vital signs, she soothingly instructs the gentleman to calm down, reminding him that he needs to relax. An elevated reading indicates the likelihood of hypertension and Hunt-Anderson recommends that he participate in "In Control," a special motivational program developed by the center to help its clients.

At an adjoining triage station, registered dietitian Ann Caldwell listens to an obese woman describe eating as her way of coping with depression and a fear of domestic violence. Caldwell speaks to her quietly about the signs of spousal abuse and tells her about Anne Arundel Medical Center's Domestic Violence Program, including its 24-hour hotline. The visitor is impressed at the respectful and compassionate way in which Hunt-Anderson and Caldwell interact with their clients.

Meanwhile, family practitioner William Dabbs, M.D., is standing by during the one night a month he spends at the center, ready to treat or refer people who need immediate medical care. So far that evening, Dabbs has seen a patient with diabetes whose symptoms indicate the need to be evaluated by a podiatrist and another with respiratory problems whose lungs needed to be X-rayed. He was referred to AAMC's radiology unit for screening.

Mary O'Malley, R.N., moves quickly around the offices, speaking cheerfully to her colleagues and greeting those in the waiting room. O'Malley is a stay-at-home mom who donates a portion of her time helping out at the clinic every Tuesday evening.

Everyone seems remarkably upbeat and there is an almost palpable air of kindness and compassion in the air. All is calm, all is bright in this special oasis for people in need who live in one of Maryland's most affluent counties.

A desire to serve the health needs of the uninsured and the underserved motivates the 125 doctors and nurses who volunteer at Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) Annapolis Outreach Center in the Stanton Community Center. The facility opened its doors a year ago on the first floor of a renovated school building that serves as a gathering place for residents of the neighborhood. Prior to that, the center was located diagonally across the street in a converted townhouse.

"We established this center to help those who are uninsured and underserved and who are in need of more accessible services," said Kris Powell, director of AAMC's Community Health and Wellness Program. Powell and Hunt-Anderson worked closely with Kirby McKinney, executive director of the Stanton Center, and respect his cooperation in making AAMC's Outreach Center a success.

Located at 92 West Washington Street near Clay Street in Annapolis, the center is open Tuesdays from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., with medical clinic hours scheduled from 12:30 p.m. until closing. On alternate Thursdays, AAMC physicians conduct ob/gyn and pediatric clinics. On the first Friday of each month, Joan Canteros, M.D., and other members of AAMC's Diabetes Center offer special classes on this all-too-common medical malady. And AAMC opthamologists and dermatologists alternate volunteer hours to provide clinics in their specialties.

As many as 100 patients a week come to the Outreach Center, some for health education, blood pressure checks or help with managing chronic illness such as diabetes and others for help with ailments ranging from colds to hypertension. People enter, glancing at the notice in the window that free HIV testing is available. They sign the visitor sign-in sheet. Pamphlets stacked on wall racks offer a variety of information, from the warning signs of being abused to the treatment of a nail fungus.

"We want to provide the kind of care that meets each person's individual needs. We try to promote the feeling that those who enter are visitors," says Hunt-Anderson, outreach services coordinator.

The phone rings. To assist the caller, Hunt-Anderson flips through an overstuffed Rolodex. The phone rings again. The calls range from medical questions to inquiries about where to find legal assistance or employment opportunities. "The need is great. We try to accommodate wherever we can," says Hunt-Anderson. "A key to our ability to serve the community is our close partnerships with other local organizations, such as the City of Annapolis and the Health Department, which share our health improvement vision."

Powell talks about what she perceives as the central mission of the Outreach Center. "This center is focused on encouraging people to take better care of themselves---to learn about healthy eating habits, to stop smoking, to take better care of themselves in order to optimize their health. Treating folks who are ill in a supportive, respectful setting is often the first step," she says. "We are all about improving the health of the community---part of AAMC's vision as a 'hospital without walls.'"

The center is open Tuesday, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., Thursday, 9 - 5, and Friday (except 1st Friday), 9 - 12. A nurse coordinator is available whenever the center is open to offer health assessment, medical counseling, stress management and physician referral. For more information or to volunteer, call 410-263-1400.


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Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
Seafood Festival
County Fair

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