Mobile clinic brings healthcare to homeless people on fringe

David Heitz

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Stout Street Clinic's new mobile medical center.Colorado Coalition for the Homeless

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) People experiencing homelessness move a lot. So, it can be challenging for healthcare providers to keep tabs on clients.

Thanks to a $340,000 exam room/pharmacy on wheels, Stout Street Clinic operated by Colorado Coalition for the Homeless can reach more people.

The Coalition calls the new RV the HOP, which stands for Health Outreach Program.

"It's critical to meet people where they are and ensure that they have access to healthcare no matter where they are living," said Coalition spokesperson Cathy Alderman in an email. "By taking the HOP out into the community, we can provide healthcare and build relationships with people experiencing homelessness who often have high barriers to accessing regular healthcare services. The relationship might lead to more regular care and even a pathway to housing."

HOP serves homeless encampments

The Coalition takes the HOP to shelters, food banks, community meals "and other places where we know people experiencing homelessness might congregate," Alderman said.

That includes illegal homeless encampments. "We can take it to encampments especially for purposes like vaccine clinics," Alderman said. "We don't have a regular encampment schedule because the locations vary on any given week."

The RV boasts a restroom and a wheelchair lift. The new-and-improved mobile clinic travels with a primary care provider, medical assistant, and driver to ensure it provides the same professional medical care as the brick-and-mortar Stout Street Health Center. According to a news release, the mobile clinic offers services including vaccinations, wound care, labs, and more."

The new HOP replaces an older model that has served since 2007.

"The new HOP will be going out for the first time this month and one way we are using it is for vaccine clinics for COVID and other vaccinations," Alderman said. "Previously, we used the HOP primarily for health screenings, dental screenings, and wound care."

Coalition opens clinic inside homeless shelter

In addition to the new HOP, the Coalition recently celebrated the opening of the 48th Avenue East Health Center. The center operates out of the men's shelter run by the Denver Rescue Mission at 48th and Colorado.

The space includes a lobby, two exam rooms, two behavioral health rooms, a point-of-care room, and a procedure room. Plans call for expansion during the coming months.

Approximately 15 clients per day receive services at the center. Clients come from the 48th and Colorado men's shelter and the nearby Samaritan House shelter for women.

The on-site clinic serves new patients, people who haven't had health care since the shelter closed at the National Western Complex and Coliseum, and people who can't visit the Stout Street Health Center due to transportation barriers, the news release said.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO
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