Stop the Spread: Free COVID-19 Testing through Seven Hills Behavioral Health
The Governor’s Office and COVID-19 Command Center selected Seven Hills Behavioral Health (SHBH) to provide free SARS-Cov-2 testing in the priority cities of Fall River and New Bedford as part of the Stop the Spread Initiative. Testing is open to anyone, even if they have no COVID symptoms. The program started on July 10, and after the incredible demand and administering success of the SHBH staff, the original August end date was extended and the program is still actively testing. As of this publishing, the SHBH team has tested just under 10,000 people. With staff speaking several languages and by bringing the testing sites into the communities’ public spaces, people from all over the state are heading to the Southeast to access the SHBH testing.
Connie Rocha-Mimoso, director of community health services at SHBH, led the efforts with her team of community health workers. The team uses the Seven Hills Mobile Outreach Van to raise awareness about free testing, and sets up local testing sites in each community. Clients received their test results by email, phone, or in person.
Staff also connect individuals to medical care and other essential health promotion services in the community including substance abuse; Overdose Prevention Education and Naloxone Education and Enrollments; Syringe Services Programming; HIV and STI Prevention, Screening, Testing, and Referral Services; and HIV/AIDS Medical Case Management Programs.
SHBH also employs harm reduction specialists and other professional staff to provide culturally competent services to high-risk children, youth, adults, and families living in its catchment area. SHBH works closely with more than 80 local community partners to provide wrap-around supports and referral services to ensure successful outcomes for clients supported. The affiliate’s food pantry in New Bedford has become a well-known community resource and has been providing food at the testing sites for clients who are food insecure. Seven Hills Behavioral Health has used COVID-19 Emergency Response Funds received through the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts as an additional funding source for food, basic hygiene items, rent, and mortgage assistance supports that are being offered to clients in need.
“I just wanted to say thank you to the people who are standing in this heat and putting themselves at risk to do free testing in New Bedford. I personally very much appreciate it."
— A grateful test recipient