Salute to Nurses: Community nursing at Greater Seacoast Community Health

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PORTSMOUTH – Community nursing is a special calling, and often serves a region’s most underprivileged, uninsured, and low-income populations.

Greater Seacoast Community Health is a collaboration between Families First, Goodwin Health and Lilac City Pediatrics. SOS Recovery Services also works through GSCH.

Coreen Toussaint, RN, is the nurse clinical leader at Goodwin Health, and has been working there for eight years.

“I manage the day-to-day clinical practices for the nurses, the medical assistants and primary care,” said Toussaint. “I also have training in prenatal care, and I help with our school-based clinics. We offer a wide variety of services and that is what I like about community nursing. There is always something new to offer, to learn.”

Community nursing is so much more than a visit to a doctor. Toussaint said they help their patients with transportation and with finding the funding they need for the services they need.

“It is the most rewarding thing I have done with my career,” said Toussaint. “We work directly with the doctors and the patients. In 2016, when we started doing medical assisted treatment for substance abuse cases, I was the initial nurse with the program. I love that we do that.”

Sally Vanderploeg, RN, is trained to do medically assisted treatment (MAT) for substance abuse. She said community nursing is a calling for her and she cannot imagine doing anything else.

“My primary area is to work with the homeless health care program,” said Vanderploeg, who works out of Families First in Portsmouth. “I was originally a labor and delivery nurse and when I decided the hospital setting wasn’t for me, I went back to nursing school. I did my clinicals at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless and I fell in love. I really love the patients we have. We get to know them, and I will take care of them whether they have insurance or not. When I was first in Boston, I was told not to talk to the homeless, not to give them money. I think they come to us in a safe setting, with a level of trust and I see them as real people, not a statistic.”

Vanderploeg is a classically trained musician and said she used to go into shelters in the Boston area and play for the people there.

Vanderploeg’s job relied heavily on a couple of vans that traveled into the neighborhoods she serves. She said that is not happening at the moment because of COVID-19, but she is doing her best to keep up through telehealth and video calls.

“Not everyone I serve has internet access, or even a computer,” said Vanderploeg. “We are doing what we can until we can get fully back to work. Most people do not get the opportunity to talk with this population, but you can learn about lives and help them. I think I grow from that and I can’t wait to get back to normal operations.”

The COVID-19 epidemic is challenging to a community health practice. Toussaint said the doctors are doing more telemedicine for primary and behavioral health, but the nurses are still seeing patients.

“Especially with our most vulnerable patients, we need to be here,” said Toussaint. “We can do some education and we can give lab results by phone, but these people often just need to be seen, and we will always be here for them.”

Vanderploeg said her patients receive primary care, prenatal, dental, substance use disorder treatment and other services they would not have without community nursing. She said she is empowered to help them and that is definitely her calling.

Medication assisted recovery program sets up mobile site in Dover

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DOVER — Area providers and recovery organizations are teaming up to provide mobile medication assisted recovery services in Dover to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Goodwin Community Health, Families First Health and Support Center and SOS Recovery Community Organization are offering the pilot mobile MAR program from 1 to 3 p.m. every Wednesday in the Dover Transportation Center lot at 33 Chestnut St.

The organizations, which comprise Greater Seacoast Community Health, note the location could move in the future.

The program started last week. It is intended to help “individuals in our community with substance use disorder and who are experiencing unstable housing and lack of access to resources during this COVID-19 era,” SOS wrote in a release.

“The goal of this initiative is to increase access to MAR services to those in our community who are most vulnerable and the least likely to access traditional office based services, especially during this time of a nationwide pandemic,” SOS wrote. “Many services in Strafford and Rockingham County for those individuals seeking recovery have been reduced due to COVID-19. Following COAST bus closures and many other changes in services in other organizations, we have decided to expand our services to a mobile setting.”

In order to access MAR services, patients will need to be either existing patients of GSCH, or be willing to become a primary care patient at GSCH.

The only medication that will be dispensed at the mobile site will be Naloxone, SOS wrote in the release.

“We will provide prescriptions that get called in locally to a pharmacy for individuals,” SOS wrote. “We plan to give only 7 day prescriptions with the plan for the patient to return weekly to the location (or in some cases arrange a telehealth visit) so as to minimize diversion issues while still providing both withdrawal management and connection to peer-recovery services.”

SOS wrote in the release patients seeking treatment for substance use disorder within the standard office-based system often encounter barriers such as stigma and behavioral health challenges making them fearful of traditional medical settings, and prolonged intake processes, which increase the risk of continued substance use and premature death.

“A Patient-centered, community based, rapid access approach prioritizes timely access to medications, reduces unnecessary use of resources, and improves effectiveness of care. This approach expands on a ‘low threshold’, harm reduction, model,” SOS wrote. “It focuses on meeting patients ‘where they are’, including them in the treatment plan, developing shared goals of care, and connecting them with primary care, behavioral health, community resources and recovery supports.”

SOS will use its Ford Transit van to transport supplies and anchor a staging area with portable canopy tents at the Dover Transportation Center.

Patient privacy will be provided using the portable canopy tents and portable sound machines.

City police, fire and emergency preparedness officials have been notified and provided permission, according to SOS.

“We are grateful for their support and understanding,” wrote SOS, which provides peer-based recovery support services at its centers in Dover, Rochester and Hampton. “The City of Dover continues to be a leader in responding to and understanding the need to allow proactive measures such as this, we hope other cities and towns will follow that lead.”

The mobile location will be staffed with peer recovery workers who are certified recovery support workers (CRSWs) from SOS, and a clinical support staff member (either a registered nurse or medical assistant) from Greater Seacoast Community Health, who will collaborate on the patient intake.

“These staff will meet with patients on a first come, first served schedule,” SOS wrote. “Staff will transport a wifi hotspot and computer tablets with them, and these tablets will be utilized to connect the patients with an off-site provider who will conduct the provider portion of the visit by telehealth, and be able to prescribe buprenorphine and/or withdrawal medication as needed, and if deemed appropriate.”

Behavioral health providers will also be accessible by telehealth for a warm handoff or consult if needed, according to SOS. Peer recovery support services will be offered on-site as well.

SOS wrote that everyone involved in the program is “proud of our ability to provide this critical service.”

“This project has been supported by leadership of Greater Seacoast Community Health, our providers and our staff,” SOS wrote. “Access to appropriate and adequate healthcare is critical to our community. We are excited and thankful that as an organization, we are able to think outside the box to serve the most vulnerable and marginalized who are struggling right now. We hope this will help reduce overdose rates in our region, and provide opportunity for recovery and improved public health and wellness.”

Additional treatment options and resources can be found at


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NH DHHS Accepting Applications from Child Care Providers Seeking Emergency Program Designation

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is now accepting applications from child care providers seeking designation as emergency child care programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. In partnership with the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (NHCF) and child care stakeholders, DHHS has committed $4 million in federal funding to establish the Emergency Child Care Collaborative, a public-private partnership that will ensure a robust and effective system of emergency child care for New Hampshire parents providing essential services during COVID-19.

Child care programs will be eligible to apply for incentive payments, including funding to support pay differentials for staff, child care costs for child care professionals, and other operating costs to support an emergency child care system. The Emergency Child Care Collaborative will hold a webinar for providers on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, from 6 – 7 p.m. to answer provider questions.      

“We recognize that child care for essential workers is a vital part of the State’s response to COVID-19, and we are committed to supporting New Hampshire families during this public health crisis,” said DHHS Associate Commissioner Christine Tappan. “This additional funding from the federal Child Care Development Fund will put resources directly into the hands of our child care programs to support operations, staff, and parents.”

“New Hampshire Charitable Foundation looks forward to partnering with DHHS, DOE and early childhood stakeholders to support the state’s emergency child care system for essential workers,” said Christina Lachance, Director of Early Childhood and Family Initiatives for NHCF. “We know child care is critical to New Hampshire’s COVID 19 response efforts and we are grateful to child care professionals who are committed to serving children and families during this uncertain time.”

On March 26, Governor Chris Sununu issued Emergency Order #17, which mandated the closure of all non-essential businesses and required Granite Staters to stay at home until May 4, 2020. The order included a list of designated business sectors that provide essential services and support to COVID-19 and the core missions of the State.

To access the webinar or to submit an application, please visit Child Care Aware of NH.  For questions about the program, email For more information on COVID-19, please visit

NH DHHS Announces WIC Appointments Available By Phone

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) today announced that in light of recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention around social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Hampshire Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program has received authorization from the US Department of Agriculture to conduct all appointments by phone.

Individuals can apply for assistance by contacting their local WIC office, and can find the office closest to them at All appointment types, including certifications and follow up appointments, can be completed by phone. Residents who have a scheduled WIC appointment should keep it and expect a phone call from their local WIC office.

The WIC program provides nutrition education and support to help keep pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and preschool children healthy and strong, and all New Hampshire WIC offices are working to ensure that clients continue to get the services they need with minimal disruption.

To learn more about the WIC program, please visit Families having difficulty getting through to their local WIC office are encouraged to leave a detailed voice message or call the WIC State Agency 1-800-942-4321.

Community organizations collaborate to feed area children as schools close due to COVID19

MARCH 18, 2020 – Area nonprofit and community organizers are working together to ensure that children are fed as schools close across Strafford County and the rest of the country due to the coronavirus outbreak. For students that rely on the meals they receive throughout the school day to combat food-insecurity, school closure often means, those children do not eat.


A current list of who is providing food, a list of area food pantries, school district meal plans, churches and other organizations in the area who are modifying how they are feeding kids, seniors, homeless and others in need can be found at


Also at risk are seniors who are considered high-risk of developing severe complications if exposed to COVID-19 according to the CDC. For older people who are also low-income or homebound, ensuring they have access to food without putting them at greater risk is paramount.


Organizations including Community Action Partnership of Strafford County (CAPSC), Region 6 IDN, End 68 Hours of Hunger, Gather, City Welfare, area Food Pantries, School Districts and Churches, have come together to document who needs food, where they are and how they will be fed.


Local food providers need more resources and are to working together to keep people fed, but also safe and healthy. If people want to help, please make a monetary donation to your local food program so that they can purchase food in bulk from vendors and distributors or give gift cards to help clients buy milk, eggs, and other proteins.  Specific requests can be found on local program social media and websites.


This list will be updated every Tuesday. Please check back on the website for updates.

Strafford County Public Health Network

Letter to our patients: COVID-19

Letter to our patients: COVID-19

This message was sent by email and text message to our patients on March 18, 2020. For updated info, see and

During this challenging time of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, we at Greater Seacoast Community Health are making some temporary changes to keep our patients, staff and community safer. Please read on to learn what to do if you are feeling ill and what to expect when you call or visit us.

Before you come to the health center

The coronavirus spreads very easily. So, please call us before you come in for an appointment or standby care if you have any of these symptoms or risk factors:

  • Cough AND a fever of 100.4 or higher
  • OR have shortness of breath
  • OR have been someplace where the coronavirus is widespread in the past two weeks
  • OR have had contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

Calling ahead will allow us to plan for your arrival and evaluation in a safe and private way. When you call, we will ask you about your symptoms and exposure. If it seems unlikely that you have COVID-19, we will schedule your appointment as usual. If we think you may have COVID-19 we will work with you on a plan for your care and possible testing.

When you come for an appointment

  • Please arrive 15 minutes before your appointment time so we can ask you a few questions about symptoms and travel and exposure risks. (At Families First and Goodwin, this screening will happen in tents outside our entrances.)
  • Please don’t bring others with you unless you really need to.
  • If you take the COAST Trolley to Families First, ask the driver to let you off at the new stop right outside Families First.

For patients over age 50 who have a chronic illness

If you are scheduled for a routine wellness check, you may be getting a call from one of our nurses or providers to check in on you and ensure that your medical needs are being met during this time when “social isolation” is recommended. We will talk with you about options for rescheduling your appointment time as well.

Reduced hours

Effective Thursday, March 19th, Goodwin Community Health and Families First will no longer have evening or weekend hours.  Our operating hours are now Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. As always, you can call us anytime, 24/7, to be connected with a nurse.

What’s happening with our other services?

Still being offered, but with changes:

  •  Dental Care: We are now offering emergency care only. If you have an appointment for non-urgent care, we will call you to reschedule it.
  • Mobile health care (vans): We are still holding these clinics (except at St. Vincent de Paul in Exeter on Wednesdays). This could change, so please call 603-766-9220 to check before coming to a clinic. Please call that same number before coming to the clinic if you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing. (Note: There is no dental care offered at these clinics.)

 Being offered by phone, video or online.

  • Home visits: Call your home visitor to schedule a phone visit: 603-422-8209.
  • SOS Recovery Services: While the centers are closed, we’ll have phone coverage, telephone recovery support services, virtual on-on-one recovery coaching, and virtual meetings and supports. Call 603-841-2350 or visit  You can also access daily online recovery-support meetings offered through Unity Recovery here.
  • WIC and CSFP: Call 603-332-4358 for information.

Not being offered right now:

  • Acupuncture
  • Parenting classes, playgroups and family group programs. Ask to join our new, private Facebook group to help parents connect:
  • Child care during appointments at Families First.

If you have questions about our services

Visit or or call us at:

  • Families First: 603-422-8208
  • Goodwin Community Health: 603-749-2346
  • Lilac City Pediatrics: 603-335-4522

Reliable sources of info about COVID-19

With best wishes for your good health,

Joann Buonomano, MD                      Janet Laatsch
Chief Medical Officer                         Chief Executive Officer

Unity Recovery, WEconnect Health, Alano Club of Portland, & SOS Recovery Offering Free Online Substance Use and Mental Health Support during COVID-19

Unity Recovery, WEconnect Health, Alano Club of Portland, & SOS Recovery Offering Free Online Substance Use and Mental Health Support during COVID-19

Virtual support groups, led by peer and family recovery specialists, occurring daily

Philadelphia—Individuals and family members dealing with substance use, mental health, disordered eating, and other behavioral health disorders will be able to participate in free online recovery support meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unity Recovery, a non-profit recovery community organization in Philadelphia, WEconnect Health, an evidence-based digital app based in Seattle, Alano Club of Portland and SOS Recovery, recovery support providers, are providing the daily service since public health officials have urged people to avoid gatherings or have shut down cities due to the pandemic. The daily online recovery support meetings are available immediately and are led by certified peer who are in recovery themselves.

To attend a meeting or learn more, individuals and family members can visit:

In just the last 72 hours, more than 2,000 individuals from 50 states and 10 countries have participated in the meetings which run at 9AM, 12PM, 3PM, 6PM, 8PM. and 9PM EST. “As recovery meetings have continued to close around the country and world, the need for connection and ongoing mutual aid is larger than ever”, said Robert Ashford, person in recovery and Unity Recovery Executive Director, “people are connecting in creative ways and maintaining their recovery in the most trying of times.” “The need for support doesn’t go away during this time. It only grows as people socially distance and there aren’t any options for those in or seeking recovery to get the support they need,” said WEconnect Health cofounder and CEO Daniela Tudor, who is in recovery herself. “Family members and loved ones need just as much support as individuals during this time, and being able to offer both types of recovery meetings is so important,” said Brent Canode, Executive Director of the Alano Club of Portland.

As of 2019, there are more than 66,000 12-step meetings in the U.S. alone and thousands of similar type of support groups. Particularly for those new in recovery and just leaving treatment, having no access to recovery meetings or therapy during this time exponentially increases the likelihood of recurrence of substance use, overdose and even death.

ABOUT Unity Recovery
Unity Recovery is a community-based, non-profit recovery community organization based in Philadelphia. At Unity Recovery, we partner with the entire community to bring comprehensive community-based recovery support to those that need them – from recovery meetings, peer recovery specialists, education and vocational training. As a hybrid recovery community organization, we support individuals in all types of recovery utilizing various pathways, all for no fees and no strings.

ABOUT WEconnect Health
WEconnect Health provides the most effective digital solution for substance use. Cofounded by Daniela Tudor and French Open Tennis champion Murphy Jensen, both in recovery, they have made it their mission to save lives, provide accurate outcomes data, and support healthcare ecosystems, communities and families.

ABOUT SOS Recovery Community Organization
SOS Recovery Community Organization is a recovery community organization based in
Somersworth, NH with recovery community centers in Dover, Rochester and Hampton, NH.
The mission of SOS Recovery Community Organization is to reduce stigma and harm associated with substance use and misuse by providing safe space and peer based supports for people in all stages of recovery. SOS is a program of Greater Seacoast Community Health is a 501c3 non-profit federally qualified health center.