College of Nursing West Nebraska Division to celebrate anniversary, opening of diabetes clinics

The UNMC College of Nursing West Nebraska Division in Scottsbluff will host open houses next week in Scottsbluff and Alliance. The Panhandle Diabetes Outreach Project in Scottsbluff will be celebrating its one-year anniversary and its grand opening expansion in Alliance.

The clinics are funded by a three-year, $536,000 grant from the Excellence in Health Care Fund (tobacco settlement) of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. They provide diabetes screening, monitoring and education to underserved populations in the Panhandle area, including Native American and Hispanic populations, who are at greater risk for diabetes and its complications.
To date, the clinics have recorded a total of 300 client visits.

On Monday, Feb. 25, UNMC will host a grand opening open house for the public and health community to learn about the new Panhandle Diabetes Outreach Project in Alliance. The clinic, which began operating in November, is housed at 119 W. 3rd St.

On Tuesday, Feb. 26, the Panhandle Diabetes Outreach Project in Scottsbluff will celebrate its first anniversary, as well as offer foot care to clients. The clinic is located at 525 East Overland Drive. It opened Feb. 13, 2001.

UNMC operates the clinics in partnership with Regional West Medical Center, Guadalupe Center, Indian Center and Lakota Lutheran Center, all in Scottsbluff; Panhandle Community Services; Western Community Health Resources in Chadron; Panhandle Partnership and Box Butte General Hospital in Alliance; and Gordon Memorial Hospital in Gordon.

The need for the clinic’s services is great, according to Gloria Gross, Ph.D., assistant dean of the UNMC College of Nursing. People in the Native American and Hispanic populations are up to four times more likely to get diabetes and have more serious complications than Caucasians. Undetected and unmonitored diabetes causes complications like blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and foot amputation — all of which are preventable.

The number of Hispanics in the state’s 11 Panhandle counties has increased by 24 percent over the last 10 years. According to the 2000 census, the area has an estimated 8,890 Hispanics, 2,400 Native Americans and 3,000 seasonal workers.

“We are pleased to invest this grant money in diabetes screening and monitoring for the members in our communities who may not have access to this basic health service,” Dr. Gross said. “Another great benefit of this grant is the collaboration with a number of agencies throughout the Panhandle who are working toward the same goal — to reduce health disparities in our communities.”

Marie Kreman, Ed.D., project director and assistant professor of the UNMC College of Nursing, said the clinics help many clients who cannot afford the tools to monitor or control their diabetes. “Some are homeless and don’t have phones,” she said. “But we find ways to get them what they need to manage their diabetes.”

Something as simple as getting foot care can prevent foot amputation, Dr. Kreman said, because sores can form on the feet of diabetics with poor circulation. If not properly cared for, the sores can ultimately cause gangrene, which requires amputation. Amputation can disable individuals and require nursing home care.

“These complications may be prevented or delayed by careful monitoring of blood glucose levels by people with diabetes,” Dr. Kreman said.

Charges at both clinics are based on a sliding scale fee, according to income. “No one will be turned away,” Dr. Gross said.

The clinics also enable UNMC students to learn about diabetes and work with people from diverse backgrounds. Drs. Gross and Kreman currently are working on expanding service at the clinics to include heart disease education and prevention.

Refreshments will be served at each open house.