A medical clinic on wheels is driving free health services right up to those who need them most.
Seattle just unveiled a new RV bringing primary care and mental health services to homeless individuals, at no cost to them, according to KGW. Mayor Ed Murray called it one of many solutions to tackle the problem of homelessness.
“As we continue to address the city’s homelessness crisis, we know there is not one answer, but many as we try to help those who are most vulnerable,” the mayor said in a statement, according to Seattle Times. “This mobile medical van will enable us to deliver critical health care to those in need and serve as an entry point to long-term support services and permanent housing.”
About one in five homeless people has a chronic substance use disorder, and a similar percentage experiences mental health issues, according to the U.S. Department of Health.
The mobile clinic will provide homeless individuals with access to a physician, a nurse, a mental health case manager and a chemical dependency professional, according to Capitol Hill Seattle. Workers will also direct homeless individuals to other long-term support services or treatment.
Parked in front of tent cities, food banks and other homeless services centers, the van will bring health services directly to homeless individuals, who might not otherwise seek them out, according to Fox News.
“The great thing about being mobile is you can go where people most need services and you can offer care on the spot,” Alicia Benish, manager of the Mobile Medical Program, told KGW. “That really helps with building trust and rapport with individuals who might not otherwise engage in services.”
The van will cost the city around $700,000 a year, according to the Seattle Times. The money will come from the city’s emergency funds to address homelessness, as well as federal funding.
This is the second mobile medical van in South King County, according to KGW. With the other van serving an estimated 850 people a year since 2008, this new van is expected to double that figure.
“It’s just a wonderful thing to have,” John, a homeless resident, told Fox News. He has been living on the streets for years and used the mobile medical van for the first time on Wednesday. “I always keep Ibuprofen on me and today didn’t have any. They gave this large portion and didn’t charge me a darn nickel.”
Seattle joins other cities and states in putting homeless services on wheels: Santa Rosa, California, set up mobile bathrooms and showers earlier this year, and Hawaii has put homeless shelters and job services on the road.