On the front lines of Long COVID, local clinics are proving to be essential

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They are leading in part because the federal government has made limited efforts, says Lisa McCorkell, a co-founder of the patient-led research cooperative. The international group was founded in spring 2020 by researchers who are also long-time COVID patients.

“It’s a big reason COVID hasn’t been talked about that much in a long time,” McCorkell said. “It’s definitely a national issue. But it’s seeping through state and local health departments, and there aren’t enough resources.”

The government clinics can be accessible to people without insurance and are often cheaper than clinics in private hospitals.

Harborview has treated more than 1,000 patients with long-term COVID, and another 200 patients are awaiting treatment, says Dr. Jessica Bender, co-director of the University of Washington Post-COVID Rehabilitation and Recovery Clinic in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood.

Offerings from the Survivor Corps group Lists by States from clinics. While the publicly run clinics may be cheaper or even free for some patients, payment methods vary from clinic to clinic. Federally recognized health clinics Offer treatment on a sliding scale. For example the Riverside University Health System in California has state qualified centers. Other providers who are not federally qualified also offer graduated care. That includes Campbell County Health in Wyoming, where some residents are eligible for discounts of 25% to 100%, spokesman Norberto Orellana says.

In Harborview, Bender says, the public hospital’s post-COVID clinic initially began with a staff of rehabilitation doctors, but expanded in 2021 to include GPs and internal medicine doctors. And it offers mental health programs with rehabilitation psychologists who provide guidance on how to deal with doctors or loved ones who don’t believe COVID has been around for long.

“I have patients who are really devastated by the lack of support from colleagues [and] family,” says Bender.

In Campbell County, Wyoming, The pandemic surge didn’t come seriously until late 2021. Physical therapists with Campbell County Health Rehabilitation Services organized a rehabilitation program for residents with long COVID after realizing the need, says Shannon Sorensen, director of rehabilitation at Campbell County Health.

“We’ve had patients come in and show chest pain or palpitations. There were people trying to get back to work. They were frustrated,” says Sorensen.

Activists for myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome have taken up the fight to identify and help long-term COVID patients, noting the similarities between the conditions and hoping to help facilitate more organized research, treatment, and benefits for long Getting started on COVID patients and ME/CFS patients.

In Fort Collins, CO, disability activist Alison Sbrana has long suffered from myalgic encephalomyelitis. You and other members of the local chapter of ME actionhave been meeting with state officials for several years and are finally seeing the results of these efforts.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has created the full-time position of political adviser for long-running COVID and post-viral infection planning.

“This is a way forward in how state governments are (finally) paying attention to and starting to think about infection-related chronic diseases,” says Sbrana.

New York City’s Health + Hospitals launched what may be the nation’s largest long-term COVID treatment program in April 2021. called post-treatmentit provides physical and mental health services, as well as community support systems and financial support.

A continuing concern for patients is that there is still no test for long-lived COVID, like there is for COVID-19, says Amanda Johnson, MD, associate vice president of ambulatory care and population health at New York Health + Hospitals. “It’s a diagnosis of exclusion in many ways. You need to make sure your shortness of breath isn’t being caused by something else. The same goes for anemia,” she says.

The California Department of Health has a detailed website on the subjectincluding Videos of “long-distance drivers” describe their experiences.

Vermont is one of several states long studying COVID, says Mark Levine, MD, the state health commissioner. The state, in partnership with the University of Vermont, has set up a surveillance project to determine how long people have had COVID, how severe it is, how long it lasts, and possible predispositions.

The University of Utah at Salt Lake City established a comprehensive COVID-19 clinic more than a year ago that also treats long-term COVID patients, says Jeannette Brown, MD, PhD, an associate professor at the school and director of COVID-19 -Clinic.

Jennifer Chevinsky, MD, MPH already had a deep understanding of Long COVID when she landed in Riverside County, California in the summer of 2021. Coming from Atlanta, where she was an epidemic intelligence officer at the CDC, she heard stories from COVID-19 patients who weren’t doing better.

Now she is the assistant health officer for Riverside County, in a region known for its deserts, hot summer temperatures and diverse population. She says her department has helped launch programs like post-COVID-19 phone calls and lengthy COVID education programs that reach the many Latino residents in this county of 2.4 million. It also includes Black and Native American residents.

“We make sure information is shared with community and faith-based organizations and health workers,” she says.

McCorkell of the Patient-Led Research Cooperative says there is still work to be done to raise public awareness of the risks of a long COVID and how to care for patients. She would like to see a national public health campaign on long COVID, possibly led by the CDC in collaboration with local health workers and community-based organizations, she says.

“That,” she says, “could make a big difference.”

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