Aug. 4, 2020
Cooperative Extension Service uses county connections to aid UAMS with COVID-19 testing outreach
By Tracy Courage
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- Extension agents will connect UAMS with community partners in counties
- Mobile testing units addresses pandemic-related health needs of rural, underserved areas
LITTLE ROCK — The job of a family and consumer science agent with the Cooperative Extension Service is providing people in their communities with resources to help them live better.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, family and science agents have been providing free, resourced-based information and services to help Arkansans successfully manage their health, finances and family resources.
Through a partnership with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, extension agents are using their community connections to help meet the pandemic-related health needs in rural, underserved areas of the state.
UAMS has a mobile testing unit that will travel on average three times a week from Little Rock to rural communities to provide COVID-19 testing. This effort coincides with Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s efforts to increase testing capacity across the state.
Destinations are identified on an ongoing basis, depending on counties’ need. Some of the testing sites will be hosted at University of Arkansas System campuses, but 63 counties do not have a U of A System campus, and this is where extension agents’ local connections come into play.
“We have extension agents working in every county in Arkansas and because they also live in the communities they serve, they have extensive knowledge of the needs of residents and of resources available in their communities,” said Bob Scott, director of the Cooperative Extension Service for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “UAMS is providing much-needed testing to Arkansans, and we are committed to using our networks to help with this important outreach and to support Gov. Hutchinson’s efforts to expand testing.”
Extension’s health leadership team is collaborating with the UAMS Office of Population Health.
“We have agreed that the best way we can assist is to provide referrals to our local community partners who may be able to coordinate these efforts,” said Laura Balis, assistant professor and extension health specialist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Local partners will help select and coordinate sites, find volunteers, promote the testing events locally and assist at the events. Testing events will typically take place between 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
In Sevier County, which had more than 930 cases as of Monday, Extension Agent Janet Cantrell contacted Angie Walker, president of the Sevier County Health Coalition, who coordinated a site at the University of Arkansas Cossatot Community College. Testing will be offered 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Aug. 6 at the De Queen Campus.
Lee County Extension Agent Ashley Cuzzort is also coordinating with a local clinic to serve as a future test site. Lee County reported nearly 900 cases as of Monday.
Testing events will be publicized by the local community partners and by county extension offices.
The mobile unit is expected to visit each county no more than twice in the coming year. The Blue & You Foundation provided funding for UAMS’s van and supplies, and UAMS staff began offering COVID-19 screenings and testing in early April.
“We’ve opened up these testing services for members of the community who want to be tested, and we’ve had an amazing turnout,” said Kristie Hadden, director of population health at UAMS.
COVID-19 testing at the mobile unit is available to anyone who feels they need testing. People do not have to be UAMS patients to be seen. Everyone will be given instructions on how to take care of themselves and their families at home and will receive a phone call with their test results a few days later.
UAMS’ online screening tool is available at uamshealth.com/healthnow. Phone screening is also available through the UAMS Health hotline at 800-632-4502.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
Director, Communications Services
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service