NEW BEDFORD — South Coast Health‘s Wellness Van has done a lot of good in its lifetime, bringing health services like screenings and vaccinations directly to neighborhoods and communities where they are needed most. Now, the unique diesel-powered Southcoast Wellness Van makes way for two all-electric vehicles that will continue the Southcoast Community Wellness Program‘s mission in a way that is as respectful of the Earth as it is of people.
The purchase of the two 2022 Kia Niro models was made with carbon reduction and the ability to see more patients per day in mind, Southcoast Health officials said in a press release, also noting the timing of the transition around Earth Day, April 22.
Break down the barriers
“For more than 25 years, the Southcoast Wellness Van has played a vital role in breaking down barriers to care by providing access to health education, vaccinations and screenings to socially vulnerable populations in our community,” said the director of community health for Southcoast Health and Wellness Rachel Davis in a press release. “Our new electric vehicles will allow us to expand these valuable services, with a more environmentally friendly and sustainable approach.”
With the switch, it also means those looking for mobile services are far less likely to find themselves standing in a car park waiting their turn. According to Davis, service delivery will be tailored so health care providers work in the places they go.
“Unlike the Wellness Van, which was self-contained, the SUVs allow the efforts of the Community Wellness team to become fully portable and meet patients where they are,” Davis told the Standard-Times via email. “Patients will no longer have to board a vehicle and the new method emphasizes working with community partners and building services on their premises that patients know.”
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As for fuel savings, Davis noted a pre-pandemic average of $4,800 per year in gas costs for the retired Wellness Van, which just turned 10 years old. “The plan is to sell the van and reinvest the proceeds into the new program,” she wrote.
Led to beat COVID
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Southcoast mobile health services have been invaluable, providing important community education and resources outside of clinical offices, Davis said. “To date, over 1,529 vaccines have been delivered through our mobile approach,” she said in Southcoast’s press release. “This achievement highlights the exceptional impact of this grassroots approach on our communities and the need to expand this work further in the future.”
South Coast CARES
Community Wellness Program Mobile Outreach is part of a group of Southcoast CARES initiatives that support ongoing population health initiatives and expand access to services, awareness, education and connection to basic health and social resources. Working in various Southcoast departments and in partnership with community organizations, the Community Wellness Program offers preventative screenings and health education, vaccinations, doctor referrals, connection to social services, information and counseling. nutrition education, COVID-19 resources, and more.
“It is difficult for many people in our community to access health services due to language barriers or a lack of information and transportation,” said Director of Community Health and Wellness, Alison LeBert. “Starting with two vehicles and a specialist team, we will build on our existing community partnerships and develop new relationships in our ongoing efforts to reach more people in need of care.”
To learn more about the Community Wellness Program and Southcoast Cares, visit Southcoast Health CARES.