By NADIA TAMEZ-ROBLEDO

Staff Writer

BROWNSVILLE — Hundreds of medical professionals will converge this week in South Texas to offer free health care services during Operation Lone Star.

Now in its 20th year, the annual event coordinated by the Texas Department of State Health Services is an exercise in setting up and running emergency clinics.

Services will be provided in Brownsville and La Feria.

Nathan Flores, a Cameron County emergency management planner, said all manner of organizations are participating at six locations in four counties. They include federal, state and local public health departments, U.S. and Texas military personnel, and local volunteers.

“The goal is (to) practice a scenario in real time,” he said. “If we have an emergency of that nature, we would be able to respond. It keeps us abreast of what’s working, what doesn’t, how to improve and keep what works.”

Flores said the full-scale exercise gives participating medical service providers experience in what it would be like delivering medical care in response to a natural disaster or pandemic.

Operation Lone Star will offer free health services at La Feria High School, 901 N. Canal St.

Services also will be provided at Rivera Early College High School in Brownsville. Attendees can take part in screenings for diabetes, blood pressure levels, hearing and vision. Dental services, sports physicals and immunizations for children also will be available, Flores said, and a mobile eyeglasses unit will be on site to fill prescriptions.

Flores said health services will be offered 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. No identification is needed, he said, but attendees are encouraged to bring a list of medications they’re taking and children’s immunization cards.

Also, health providers will distribute information about the importance of exercise, nutrition and healthier lifestyles.

Chris Hall is chief operating officer of Tennessee-based Remote Area Medical, a nonprofit medical provider that will be delivering dental and vision care in Brownsville and San Juan during Operation Lone Star.

“(Our goal is) to alleviate suffering by providing health care for those in need,” he said. “Operation Lone Star provides the opportunity to do that.”

Hall said the services are provided on a first-come-first-served basis, and some people wait overnight to get in line. A group of 20 from Remote Area Medical will be working with military personnel and health students to conduct vision and dental services, he said.

Operation Lone Star health providers administered more than 40,000 public health services to more than 8,000 people in Cameron, Starr, Hidalgo and Webb counties last year, Flores said.

Those interested in attending can get more information by calling 2-1-1.

All Operation Lone Star Locations in the Rio Grande Valley include: