Operation Border Health Preparedness offers free medical care

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A volunteer checks Vivica Pardo’s blood sugar at the Operation Border Health Preparedness Monday, July 24, 2023, at the Brownsville school district’s Central Administration Building. She distracts herself by speaking with her mother Nancy at far left. (Travis M. Whitehead/Valley Morning Star)

BROWNSVILLE — They checked blood pressure.

They also checked weight, hearing, vision, and blood sugar to any individual needing medical care without being to afford it. They wouldn’t have to pay for this medical care at Operation Border Health Preparedness.

The week-long event being held at the Brownsville school district’s Central Administration Building, with other locations in Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties, was free of charge and of vital importance to local residents.

“We are basically a low socio-economic region,” said Andre Gomez, public information officer for Operation Border Health Preparedness.

“We have a high rate of diabetes and hypertension,” Gomez said Monday. “This may be their only chance to get prescriptions on their meds.”

OBHP is an exercise conducted annually by the Texas Department of State Health Services and its partners to prepare for public health emergencies and disasters. This year it is operating five sites in Brownsville, Laredo, Raymondville, Rio Grande City and San Juan.

Numerous entities were on hand Monday to provide services and support for the event, including the Texas State Guard, Texas Southmost College, MHP Salud, and the UTRGV Institute of Neuroscience.

“It’s an honor to serve the State of Texas and the community,” said Lt. Col. Joe Jones, officer in charge of the Texas State Guard participating in the event.

“We are offering services. We have doctors, nurses working with the community,” Jones said.

So vital is the need that Operation Border Health Preparedness has been held annually since 1999 in the last week of July, Gomez said.

The last week of July was not randomly picked for the event. It’s timed to coincide with the beginning of the school year.

That’s why Nancy Pardo brought her daughter Vivica and her godson Jacob to the event. They’re both juniors this year at Pace Early College High School.

Monday morning they were getting their required physicals to play sports.

“It’s extremely important and helpful,” said Pardo. “It saves time, and we don’t have to pay the copay.”

Operation Border Health Preparedness will run from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. starting July 24 to Friday, July 28. For a complete list of locations and more information, visit dshs.texas.gov/obhp2023.