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Living Well Expo draws large crowd

June 06, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HALFWAY -- Tough economic conditions might have helped feed a large turnout Saturday for the 2009 Living Well Expo at Valley Mall.

And those who didn't attend missed learning more about many of the free medical and health-care services available.

"People are just putting their health on the back burner," said Kim Myers, a community outreach assistant for the John R. Marsh Cancer Center at Washington County Hospital. "They can't afford it."

The cancer center's booth at the expo, one of more than two dozen set up for the five-hour event, noted it provides free breast examinations and health education.

"If they need transportation, we'll go pick them up and bring them in," Myers said.

Officials with the Tri-State Community Health Center hoped to raise awareness of the services it provides in the area, which has seen hundreds of people lose their jobs in the last several months.

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In the first quarter of 2009, the center has given away about $129,000 in medications, said Andrea Bowers, the center's site manager at its office in Hancock.

"As sad as it is, Tri-State, with our 32 employees -- we're the largest employer group in Hancock," Bowers said.

"We need more services, we just haven't been able to get them," Bowers said of efforts to land more grant funding.

Case manager Marie Wills said the center is seeing patients who are homeless in Hancock, while others have traveled from as far away as Virginia.

Organizations offering free blood pressure and vision screenings on Saturday had plenty of people interested in a health checkup.

"It's definitely more popular than it was last year," said Jessica LaPole of Robinwood Heart Center in Hagerstown.

Hundreds of free white and red pins "went like hotcakes," and the last red, plastic pill dispenser was taken out of a large bowl shortly after 1 p.m., LaPole said.

"This is wonderful," said Jennifer Mumma of Hagerstown as her 6-year-old daughter, Jessica, was getting her face painted. "Anytime I see somebody putting out a health fair, I think it's wonderful."

In addition to traditional medical services, Saturday's expo, which was sponsored by The Herald-Mail, featured information on alternative medical services, herbal healing, spas, health screening information, women's care and nutrition counseling, as well as martial arts demonstrations.

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