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Richmond non-profit recognized for efforts on frontline of COVID-19 pandemic

Updated: Dec. 8, 2020 at 3:14 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - At the Daily Planet in downtown Richmond, you won’t find Clark Kent writing his latest column but you will find superheroes hard at work.

“We provide medical care, dental care, behavioral health, psychiatry, substance abuse treatment and we have two substance abuse facilities,” says Dr. Patricia Cook, the Chief Medical Officer at the non-profit.

All of the services are being provided at little to no cost for low-income families and people facing homelessness.

“In 2019, we had about 7,000 unique patients for about 40,000 visits,” says Dr. Cook.

Cook says that visits in 2020 have also increased due to the public health emergency. In February, the non-profit acquired a neighboring building and turned it into a COVID-19 testing site. More than 6,000 people were assessed with 600 coming back positive.

This helped to offload a lot of patients that would otherwise find themselves in already crowded hospitals. Those positive patients are then placed in their medical respite housing facility, or in hotels as they recover.

But there’s another side effect of this pandemic, according to CEO Anita Bennett.

“There is a whole population of the hidden homeless. Especially now, you have people who have been evicted and out on the streets because they cannot pay and they’re living in cars and they’re living in hotels. We have whole families trying to live within vehicles,” Bennett said.

NBC12 awarded the Daily Planet $300 in cash and a $50 gift card to Mexico Restaurant to help in any way possible. It’s not much, but it’s an investment in our community.

For Bennett, it’s not about the money, it was the fact that her nurses and doctors know they are appreciated by everyone in the community.

“There was a lot of motivation at the beginning of COVID-19 about healthcare heroes and COVID-19 heroes, but a lot of that has died down and we’re still here. Every day we still go in, gown up, mask up and see our patients, and if anything the need is growing, not decreasing. But our fatigue and tiredness are growing so it was a huge morale lift, so I really appreciate it.”

As for the money, Bennett said they’ve discussed an idea.

“We talked about the residential facility, and doing a meal there would be just great, and I know it’s difficult to do fellowship with the meal but it would be so well received,” Bennett said.

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