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Simple Choice PPE Eliminates COVID-19 Testing Barriers

Holly Bonner

Simple Choice PPE Solutions. The name says it all. Chris Ramsey and LaQuentin Jenkins, founders of Simple Choice PPE Solutions, work to represent the underserved communities in the Chattanooga area who were hit hardest by the pandemic. As chair of the Health Disparity Task Force, Ramsey knows the importance of education when it comes to health and wellness. That’s why he works to eliminate barriers that prevent minorities from receiving easy access to COVID-19 testing. 

In our conversation with Ramsey, he talks about the inspiration behind his business, why he’s passionate about community service and how he sees Simple Choice PPE Solutions evolving in the coming months. 

TREND: Tell us about Simple Choice PPE. What’s the mission behind it?

Ramsey: Simple Choice PPE was established as a result of an insurance agency that my business partners and I own, Simple Choice Insurance Brokerage, and also the Chris Ramsey Agency, located here in Chattanooga. At the time, my business partner, LaQuentin Jenkins, and I were trying to secure some PPE, personal protective equipment, for our Medicare-aged clients. In light of COVID-19, we knew it was important to supply them with gloves, masks, hand sanitizers and other items because they were part of a vulnerable population.

To solve the problem, LaQuentin leveraged his relationships and experience to establish an exclusive relationship with a Georgia-based importer that was able to supply us with the essential PPE items we needed. Simple Choice PPE was created once we realized that we could help many other people solve their PPE problems too. Since launching in April, we've actually secured a number of clients from cities like Chattanooga, Atlanta and Houston. 

TREND: Does Simple Choice PPE have plans to expand? 

Ramsey: Simple Choice PPE has relationships with health care providers, restaurants and hotels in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Texas, but our products are available nationwide. We started with these four states because of existing relationships with various people and industries, and that has really jump started our business, but anyone can find our products on the Simple Choice PPE website

TREND: Shifting gears, talk about your work to provide free community COVID-19 testing.

Ramsey: One of our main goals is service. LaQuentin and I met over 30 years ago, while he was an undergraduate student at UTC, and I was a graduate student getting my MBA. Our passion for community service began when we were both members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. 

In light of the pandemic, we believe it’s important for underserved communities to have easy access to COVID-19 testing. So, we are participating with a number of agencies in the Chattanooga area, including Cempa Community Care, Alleo Health and LifeSpring Pediatrics, to bring testing locations to thousands of individuals across the community at least twice a week. 

Because of the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, the Hamilton County Health Department also has the resources to provide free COVID-19 testing at a number of African American churches every weekend until the end of August. We’re also partnering with the foundation that sponsors the Minority Health Fair to give out 10,000 KN95 masks to people in need at these testing sites. 

We try to eliminate all barriers. For example, if you don't have transportation, there is a vendor that will give you free transportation. 

TREND: What’s a specific moment you felt like you were making a real impact during the pandemic?

Ramsey: Let me start with some background information. I serve on the Regional Health Council, which is an advisory committee for the Chattanooga Hamilton County Health Department. Even before COVID-19, I was appointed to serve as the chairperson of the first ever Health Disparity Task Force, which was created as a result of a community health assessment report called the 2019 Picture of Health

This health report outlined a number of health disparities that exist in the minority communities as it relates to chronic diseases. We’re talking about diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and many other debilitating illnesses. Minorities are dying at a much higher rate than our white counterparts. 

Before the pandemic, we convened as many as 40 decision-makers across our community, both in the nonprofit sector, as well as in the health care sector. In our regular meetings, we talked about what we could do to move the needle on improving health disparities in our community.

At the time, we didn’t know how important the task force would be in preparing us for the pandemic. It allowed me to develop some relationships with people who are passionate about educating others on the significance of wearing a mask and getting tested. In the African American community, there’s a lot of distrust. I don't mind serving as the voice of reason when it comes to making sure people trust the healthcare system and the results they receive.

TREND: How do you think your business model might shift after the pandemic?

Ramsey: As far as our businesses are concerned, I'm a believer in having multiple revenue streams. Again, the basis of our business is our insurance brokerage firm: Simple Choice PPE was created out of the desire to serve our current clientele. Both of these businesses complement one another because as people become aware of our PPE, they also learn what we can do in terms of helping them with their healthcare needs. 

As far as the pandemic, it doesn't look like things are going to slow down anytime soon. Mask mandates are ramping up the need for PPE. So right now, we don't have a timeline for the foreseeable future of when the demand is going to decrease.

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