Bringing health home to seniors in Atlanta

A woman stares out optimistically beyond the camera.

Finding and accessing health care providers you trust can be daunting. For low-income seniors living on their own during a pandemic with limited transportation options, it can seem impossible.

In Atlanta’s 30318 ZIP code, which is home to a large number of low-income seniors, emergency room visits and 911 calls for ambulances are common. They often are the sole source of healthcare for seniors. Among those living at Herndon Square Senior, an affordable independent living housing complex, chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes are typical. However, few residents visit healthcare providers regularly to manage their conditions or receive preventative screenings, checkups or vaccines.

“Our residents have a hard time finding a doctor they like and trust, and if they do, often don’t feel safe getting on a bus to go to an appointment during this pandemic,” explained Nekia Goolsby, property manager at Herndon Square. “Many of them want to manage their health but end up giving up. And that hurts them and the community.”

Although telehealth appointments might seem like a solution, this population isn’t always tech-savvy and may find lining up care this way equally as frustrating, Nekia said.

Bringing care to seniors in need

To address this critical need for accessible care, CVS Health is funding programming to bring onsite primary healthcare services to the Herndon Square Senior complex in collaboration with Atlanta’s Good Samaritan Health Center. Beginning in January 2022, a designated nurse practitioner from Good Samaritan will make regular visits to Herndon Square’s community center to provide health assessments, check vital signs and blood sugar, and offer flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines. They will also act as a bridge to same-day urgent care visits or specialists within Good Samaritan’s system. Walk-up services will be available to anyone in the neighborhood, as well as Herndon Square’s nearly 100 residents. In addition to onsite primary care, this funding will support the creation of a new health and wellness coordinator role at Herndon Square who will get to know residents and their wellness needs as a basis to coordinate additional services both onsite and in the community. This grant is part of Health Zones, a new community investment program bringing CVS Health together with local partners to support expanded programming and launch new offerings that address the community’s most pressing health challenges. The program also aims to advance health equity by creating interventions that meet the unique needs of people experiencing health disparities.

A kickoff health resource fair held by CVS Health and Good Samaritan last fall gave local seniors a flavor for the new onsite services. The fair’s COVID-19 vaccine and booster clinic was attended by more than 30 residents. After watching several community members receive their vaccines, one woman who hadn’t yet been vaccinated for COVID-19 decided to get her shot. She had been interested in getting the vaccine but was hesitant about leaving her home to get it. “I’ve been saying, if God wanted me to get the shot, he’d send a great big sign. Well, here you are,” she said, smiling at the onsite nurse before rolling up her sleeve.