NORFOLK, Va, (WAVY) – In the historic Berkley section and the rest of southside Norfolk, profound cradle-to-grave health disparities were exposed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Help landed last summer when Sentara opened three new Community Care Centers that take aim at chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues.

The timing was critical for 46-year-old Norfolk resident Felecia Shearin, who first met with Family Nurse Practitioner Chanell Dorris in August.

“My cholesterol was high; thank God she caught that,’ said Shearin just after receiving a good grade during a brief check-up at the Community Care Center in Berkley.

Dorris also caught Shearin’s high blood pressure and low vitamin D levels.

“I just never trusted doctors, but with her, I felt like I could trust her, and I’ve been telling everybody about her,” Shearin said.

Shearin found the clinic on Google, but other patients were found by clinic staff during neighborhood civic league meetings, walks around the neighborhood where they handed out fliers and even visits to a neighboring supermarket.

(WAVY Photo: Destini Harris)

“Our staff has been very proactive about going out and meeting the community,” said Dr. Michael Charles, who eschewed the traditional routine of opening a medical office in the suburbs and expecting the medically underserved patients to show up for care. “This is a new skill set for us but it’s an exciting skill set and I think it’s something that we really needed to learn how to do. We weren’t doing this very well.”

The Berkley Clinic, a homeless care program at the Union Mission, and a mobile unit, collectively apply pressure to a care neglect wound. Sentara officials say so far there’s been an 80 percent reduction in the number of homeless people who turn to Sentara emergency rooms for care.

“When you are here and you are here to stay,” Charles said. “The community starts getting that sense of trust and getting that relationship together, and that’s what I really like.”

More information

For information on the Sentara Community Care Centers, click the link or call 757-388-1830.