By Robert A. Poarch
“I’m really tired. That’s how things have changed,” said Amy Vaughn, MATCH/TRPA Program Manager at Mission Hospital McDowell, with a sigh when asked how her job is different since COVID-19 hit McDowell County. “We’ve seen a huge uptick in the number of folks who are calling us for assistance. Not necessarily individuals enrolled in the program, but people who have found themselves to be without a job or have been laid off or whatever economic hardship they’re facing. They’re having to navigate services that they thought they would never have to do. So, our role in that has been pretty tremendous.”
McDowell Access To Care & Health (MATCH) is a resource for low-income McDowell County residents. According to their website, MATCH is “a streamlined system of health that improves access to care, engages the patient in their physical, behavioral and social health, and utilizes community resources in the best way possible.” Or, as Vaughn succinctly puts it, “We help link people to whatever they identify as a need.”
“This is my baby,” said Vaughn, who has been with MATCH since its inception in 2015. “It started out small, probably serving maybe 30 to 40 people. Now we serve approximately 500 a year who get enrolled in the entire program.”
“As a life-long resident of this community, it is truly a privilege to have a role in helping the region become a healthier place to live and work.” – Amy Vaughn
MATCH services are available to all McDowell County residents who are below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and are uninsured. “We don’t ask to see any kind of documentation on residency. We do provide services and navigation to those who don’t meet that requirement,” said Vaughn. “So, if someone were to call us and need access to a resource, then we’re going to help connect them to the resource regardless of whether they meet the whole requirement.”
MATCH has partnered with the local transit authority, McDowell Transit, and the Foothills Food Hub to deliver food boxes to community members who have been economically impacted by this crisis. Those in our community who experience transportation barriers or those who are immune compromised and sheltering in place can now receive a prepackaged food box delivered straight to their doorstep.
“Before COVID-19, the rural nature of our county often meant food pantries and distribution were not easily accessible to all. Job loss, layoffs and shutdowns have exacerbated this problem,” said Vaughn. “Community members can contact MATCH, who will not only coordinate delivery of food, but will also complete a needs assessment to determine additional needs and connect community members to other resources such as healthcare, medication assistance, diabetic testing supplies, sanitation and personal care items, and more.”
To date, more than 100 families have received a delivery and a comprehensive needs assessment from a MATCH team member. “We do take that holistic approach of recognizing that help is more than just one thing,” said Vaughn. “Do you have access to proper food and nutrition? Do you have access to medication? Do you have transportation? Do you have the resources that you truly need to be well and stay well? Those are the things that we address.”
Another factor, particularly during this time, is mental health. “What we see right now is there are so many people who just don’t know how to feel. People are scared. People are panicking. People are worried,” said Vaughn. “That’s another thing that we can connect people to.”
It’s a good thing that connections go both ways. “I think we’ve all grown closer together through this and leaned on each other for support,” said Vaughn. “For me, I have to keep reminding myself that things will go back to normal eventually. That’s what I have found myself saying to those I come in contact with. This is scary, but eventually we will find some normalcy.”
MATCH was recently awarded a $10,000 Emergency Needs grant from the Community Foundation of WNC to provide additional assistance to our community in its time of need.
Resources MATCH clients can be connected with:
• Primary care
• Specialty care
• Case management
• Medical supplies
• Medication assistance
• Utility bill assistance
• Behavioral health
• Preventive health
Amy Vaughn is MATCH/TRPA Program Manager at Mission Hospital McDowell.