Ohio Valley Health Center gala to include special honors

GALA HONOREES — Trudy Wilson, center, executive director of the Ohio Valley Health Center, joins with Denise Lucas, left, provider of the year, and Debbie Myers, volunteer of the year, both of whom will be honored at the center’s 12th-annual fundraiser gala set for April 22 at St. Florian Hall in Wintersville to a “Great Gatsby” theme. The Mary Jane Brooks Charitable Trust will be singled out as the community partner of the year. Tickets to the gala are $50 per person with reservations due April 16 by calling the health center at (740) 283-2856. Sponsorship packages also are available. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — The Mary Jane Brooks Charitable Trust and two Weirton residents will be singled out for honors when the Ohio Valley Health Center holds its annual gala fundraiser on April 22 at St. Florian Hall in Wintersville.

The trust will be applauded as community partner of the year, while Denise Lucas will be recognized as provider of the year and Debbie Myers as volunteer of the year.

The 12th-annual event has a “Great Gatsby” theme, meaning attendees can feel free to dress up in 1920s attire if they feel inspired as a way to “have fun and celebrate the health center,” according to Trudy Wilson, its executive director. It’s optional, however.

The event will include a social hour of champagne and hors d’oeuvres at 5 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m., followed by the recognition of honorees, a state-of-the-center report and announcements, a Chinese auction and a live auction.

The cost is $50 per person, with reservations due by April 16 by calling the center at (740) 283-2856. Sponsorship packages also are available.

“The Mary Jane Brooks Charitable Trust is our community partner of the year,” Wilson said, noting, “I have worked with Pete Chalfant, who is the managing trustee of that organization, and they awarded the health center $100,000 at the end of 2017 with an additional $25,000 coming in 2018 specifically for our renovation of the new facility,” she explained, referring to the center’s return to the downtown this year.

The center currently operates out of Suite 202, One Ross Park, 380 Summit Ave., in the Trinity Medical Center East area, but hopes to move by late summer into its new location at 423 South St. in the former Neighborhood House Daycare and Preschool building after renovations are initiated and completed. The announcement of that building acquisition came at the 2017 gala.

“They have been amazing to help with our renovations,” Wilson said of the trust, which, aside from Chalfant, has Ned George, Dave D’Anniballe and Brookes Chalfant as its trustees.

The trust was established in 2011 after the death of Mary Jane Brooks in 2009 and has awarded in excess of $2 million to more than 20 charitable organizations. Preference is given to charities identifying health care as their charitable mission.

Wilson said a special naming right will be provided in memory of Brooks on the front of the health center.

As provider of the year, Lucas takes on the mission of the health center as a personal mission, according to Wilson.

“For most of my career as a nurse practitioner, I’ve worked with underserved populations and even as a student, that’s where most of my clinical rotations were, and I understand this population probably better than anything else, so as a nurse practitioner, you figure out really fast where you’re good and where you’re not, so I sort of stuck with this population, because I know I can make an impact,” Lucas said in explaining why she became a volunteer.

“It’s also been my area of research so I have a Ph.D. from WVU, and it’s through my dissertational work I studied uninsured working women in a concept called Learn Resourcefulness so I’ve always chosen to practice in this area. It’s just been a choice. It also serves as a research focus for me because I have done a couple studies in this clinic in particular and with this population,” Lucas continued.

Wilson explained Lucas is preparing for a second study at the health center, the Health Outcomes Program for Diabetes Management, launching sometime this summer. “It’s phase two of an earlier study that we’ve done,” Wilson added.

Lucas enjoys being a volunteer.

“There’s no other way I think to get this kind of satisfaction in your life unless you figure out that no matter who you are or where you are, you have something to give, and it’s making the choice to go and give it, and that’s what this opportunity does,” Lucas said. “There are people who are neighbors who are in our community who need things, and all of us, no matter what, we have something to give. You just have to figure out what that something is, and I’ve been fortunate enough in life to get through school, to become a nurse practitioner, to understand people who are uninsured, who are working, who are poor, and I almost feel like it’s my obligation to come here and take care of the people in my community.”

Lucas spends one day a week at the center, there in addition to her full-time job at Duquesne University.

“Denise has been very consistent in providing free care to our patients for several years,” Wilson said, adding, “She has a heart for the mission of the organization.”

Myers taught in the Hancock County Schools System for 25 years before retiring, finishing her career at Oak Glen Middle School. After that, she worked as a substitute teacher but quickly tired of it.

“I needed a change, something different, and so I was just kind of sitting home, and I felt useless and a little depressed, and so I needed an outlet, something to do for somebody else,” Myers said.

“Trudy and I attend the same church, and I asked her one Sunday if she needed volunteers and she said yes, so I came over here, and that’s how it started,” Myers explained. “It’s benefited me a lot, because I needed that outlet to lift me up from the doldrums I was in, and I felt like I was doing something for someone else, helping out, and basically I’ve been doing it ever since. I enjoy it,” she said, noting the spirit of volunteerism is an example set by her father, the late Frank Amuso, who volunteered at the former Ohio Valley Hospital.

Myers works on files, answers the phone — whatever the need may be. “I like to greet the patients,” she added.

“Debbie has been a volunteer for a little more than a year,” Wilson said. “She comes in two days a week and does anything we ask her to do, mostly administrative things, and she works a lot with patient charts and helps with big mailings. She is very faithful in coming in, and she just really has added some happiness to the front office as well as the work she does for us,” Wilson added.

The Ohio Valley Health Center exists to provide safety-net health care to low-income patients who do not have any insurance at all, or who have limited insurance through Medicaid or a managed care program, according to Wilson. “Without the services offered by OVHC, many patients would go without health care and life-saving medications, or they would have died from complications of their chronic illnesses.”

The gala constitutes the center’s largest fundraiser. “We generally like to get between a quarter and a half of our cash operating budget through this every year,” Wilson said, noting the 2018 operating budget is $226,775, an amount that does not include inkind donations and pharmaceuticals.

Wilson has identified the center’s focus this past year as working to strengthen the internal structure, develop more solid processes and launch a three-year, $1 million capital expansion project. It will be implemented, she said, in three phases:

— Renovating the new health center facility at 423 South St. and relocating back into downtown Steubenville. “Our goal is to be relocated by the end of summer 2018.”

— Expanding the current onsite pharmacy to become a community charitable pharmacy serving those who are within 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level and uninsured.

— Working to collaborate with an outside organization to provide an OVHC dental clinic.

“Along with these three major goals over the next three years, OVHC is currently developing the final steps to launch a free Health Outcomes Program for diabetes management, which should launch during summer 2018,” Wilson noted.

In 2016 and 2017, the center provided health services in 2,410 patient encounters to 615 individual patients, Wilson explained. The total cost of the 2,605 prescription medications given to patients was $544,880, and 301 Prescription Assistance Program applications were completed for patients who received $332,487 in free medications directly from pharmaceutical companies.

She said the center ran 749 lab tests in-house, made 349 medical referrals to specialty doctors, and made 181 diagnostic referrals, 47 vision referrals, and 18 dental referrals for patients. Volunteers logged more than 6,134 hours of donated medical, pharmacy and administrative services.

The gala is for everybody, according to Wilson and gala co-chairs Anthony Mougianis, board vice president, and his fiancee, Tara Dzvonick, both of whom are active volunteers in the community.

“We encourage businesspeople, people in the community that maybe wonder what we’re about and what we’re doing. We encourage people to come who know what we’re doing and are excited about it and want to see us move forward, and we want to invite anybody interested in the fact that we’re providing free health care for people who have no other option for their health care,” Wilson said.

Health center board members, in addition to Mougianis, are Francesca Carinci, Tom Timmons, Kyle Brown, Gertrude DeHart, Bob Gribben, Mark Judy, Vickie Littlejohn, Dr. Denise Lucas, Dr. Mary Mihalyo, Keith Murdock, Trudy Wilson (ex-officio), Dr. Thomas Brown, (ex-officio), Dr. Charn Nandra, Patricia Fletcher (emeritus) and Dr. Frank Petrola (emeritus).

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