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Attendees take advantage of free screenings at health expo

November 11, 2018

Mohegan — Michael White worked in cardiology for 27 years, and noticed a distinct change in patient behavior during that time.

“It used to be if you had chest pain, you’d run to the doctor,” White said.

Now, people will wait months before going to the doctor, at which point there’s often fewer options for treatment.

“People come in with pain, open wounds, black toes,” he said. “If we catch some of it earlier, we can prevent amputation, that’s what it’s about.”

White, director of business development at The Vascular Experts: Southeastern CT Vascular Center, said that was the point of offering free vascular disease screenings Saturday as part of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut’s “Total Life Expo” at Mohegan Sun, which also featured dozens of vendors and cooking and fitness demonstrations.

As of 1:30 p.m., about 50 people, ranging in age from twenties to nineties, went through the quick vascular ultrasound. About 75 percent of them said it was their first time getting that kind of screening, White said.

The Uncas Health District Medical Reserve Corps partnered with the nursing program at Three Rivers Community College to perform blood pressure screenings.

Nursing students had screened about 75 people, as young as 23 and as old as 73, as of 1:45 p.m. High blood pressure, which can lead to stroke and other serious health problems, is known as “the silent killer” because people don’t know they have high blood pressure because they don’t exhibit any symptoms.

Jim Latourette, 84, of Quaker Hill said he usually has his blood pressure checked once a week at his local senior center, but decide to take advantage of that and the vascular disease screening while touring the expo. He has high blood pressure and vascular problems, and while he’s seen a physician about both, he said he was “steered in the direction of help” on Saturday for his vascular issues.

Lori Bernier, a primary therapist at Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield, was manning a booth that gave free mental health screenings. Eleven people visited the booth. Karen Colt, an employee of Rivereast Treatment Center in Vernon, part of Natchaug Hospital, said she’s done mental health screenings at the expo for three years, and she’s noticed people are curious to get information but reluctant to fill out an assessment form.

“They’ll talk but actually filling out the form is difficult,” Colt said.

Some have walked by, seen the “depression” sign hanging above the booth and quickly looked away, she said, which shows while the stigma around mental health has lessened, it still exists.

“It’s like any other disease,” she said. “People don’t hesitate to talk at the swimming pool about their cardiovascular issues or eczema.”

Bernier also was alerting people to a program she runs at the hospital for adults 55 and older who are struggling with mental illness or substance abuse.

“You don’t think of seniors as having substance abuse problems but it can be a big issue for people with a lot of time on their hands and no regular routine,” Colt said.

They also can struggle with chronic illnesses that keep them isolated at home, she said, or feel loneliness due to the loss of a partner or friend.

j.bergman@theday.com

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