Sleepy Inn continues as quarantine shelter; Missoula’s vaccine distribution evolving

The West Broadway quarantine shelter purchased by the City of Missoula early last year has served more than 200 people during the pandemic, and several of them have transitioned into permanent housing.

Missoula County officials also said that recent efforts to coordinate the distribution of vaccines is going well, even as the Montana Department of Health and Human Services makes changes to how it distributes the state’s limited supply.

It recently implemented a single point of contact at the local level in all counties.

“That enables us to be even more coordinated in who’s going to get the vaccine based upon our allocation,” said Adriane Beck. “It still fluctuates around that 1,500 new first doses per week. We can be very strategic in reaching providers who are ready and able to administer that vaccine in a very quick fashion.”

Beck, the county’s director of Disaster and Emergency Services, said the current vaccine requires two doses. As a result, the county must consider the provider’s capacity as it follows the first dose with the second – and also continues to administer those first doses to new patients.

Beck said Missoula County has 27 registered providers ranging from pharmacies to medical clinics.

“We have to plan for and anticipate when those second doses start arriving and what that does to a provider’s capacity to continue administering first doses,” Beck said. “Part of what our tasking is, is to understand what those capacities are so we can allocate appropriately. We don’t want a vaccine sitting in a freezer because we can’t get it out.”

While the county is still receiving just 1,500 doses per week, new vaccines, including that by Johnson & Johnson, could see approval this week.

Until the number of available doses increases, Beck said the county’s evolving outreach efforts will continue to include both an open and focused approached. The later includes healthcare clinics that maintain patient records, enabling them to identify those in high risk categories.

The open approach aims to target the hard-to-reach population.

“Outreach continues with the hard-to-reach population and the agencies that serve those folks,” Beck said. “Our strategy is to continually support the two methods of vaccine availability. We always want to keep those options flush with vaccines.”

The Sleepy Inn, purchased last year by the city to serve as a quarantine and isolation shelter for the certain at-risk members of the population, has served 230 unique individuals since March 2020.

Four of the individuals have transitioned into permanent housing. Beck said they’re over the age of 65 with underlying conditions. She credited the success to the recent hiring of a social worker to work with the shelter’s clients.

“That would not be possible if not for the social worker the health department brought on,” Beck said. “It was great to collaborate with the health department, knowing that was going to be a need and finding that funding through the city to bring that position on. It’s been very beneficial and valuable to the effort.”