At a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week for Beebe Healthcare’s new Mobile Health Clinic, the puns “road” and “drive” flew. The drive’s purpose, however, is no joke, and Beebe officials drove home that point by explaining just what the 36-foot-long specialized bus will be used for.
BeebePresident and CEODr. David Tam said at the ceremony on Wednesday November 19th. 16, that Beebe “is fundamentally changing the way he can provide care to Sussex County as it continues to grow”.
The unit is divided into two sections and will serve as an examination space for mental health and/or behavioral health services or screening and physical health services.
As the unit travels through a community, a “peer coach” will meet with community members outside the unit to find out what services they may need. Then, patients will be “triaged” and sent to one of the testing areas within the unit.
Multidisciplinary teams will be on board to provide the necessary care. Telehealth services with physicians will be available, as well as translation services where needed. The mobile clinic is equipped with satellite broadband Internet, a solar panel for power, and more than 400 square feet of clinic space.
Funding for the unit comes from several sources. The Delaware Division of Substance Abuse & Mental Health awarded the Beebe Medical Foundation a $550,000 state opioid response grant. The grant was awarded to Beebe to expand its treatment capacity and help reach high-risk populations and enabled the purchase of Beebe’s first mobile health unit.
In April, the Carl M. Freeman Foundation awarded Beebe a three-year Matching Grant of $375,000. Michelle Freeman, CEO of Carl M. Freeman Companies and president of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, said when she walked through the parking lot of Beebe Healthcare Specialty Surgery Center, where the unit was parked for the ceremony, “I gushed and she she started crying.
“As a grant-making, check-writing lender,” Freeman said, “all you want is for your dollar to make a difference.” Seeing the Freeman Foundation grant in action at Beebe, he said, is “amazing.”
All any donor, no matter the amount, wants to see, Freeman said, is for their donation “to be treated with respect and dignity and put to work in the community.”
Freeman then connected the new awareness ability with personal experience “as a recovering drug addict and alcoholic for 35 years.”
“Many people don’t get help because of shame,” she said. “What I think is cool about this van is that it’s going to go into the community and bring help. And there is no shame in entering a place that looks like this,” she said, gesturing to the bus, which is decorated with rainbow-colored silhouettes of people.
“We start to change people’s lives when this goes into communities with barriers, who are afraid, who may not want to come to the hospital, who may not have a way to get there. And they can come in here…and get the help they desperately need,” Freeman said.
“This mobile medical unit is just the beginning,” Tam said. Smiling, she said Beebe will “keep driving — no pun intended. No, actually, pun: quality of health care in this county.
Prior to the ribbon cutting, the unit received a blessing from Nanticoke spiritual leader Herman Jackson, who walked around the vehicle using a feather fan to waft smoke from a steaming blend of greens including sweet grass, cedar, tobacco and sage. Nanticoke Chief Natosha Carmine offered a prayer after expressing gratitude as a leader of the Nanticoke tribe and hopes the unit will be used to reach out to all communities in Sussex County in need of his services.
After the ceremony, Tam said the vehicle will be used for public events, such as community health screenings, as well as clinical uses. She said the vehicle could also be used for some types of “home visits.”
He said Beebe will work with community organizations, school districts and CHEER centers to identify countywide needs the mobile unit can address.
Reiterating Freeman’s comments about addiction medicine, Tam said those with addictions “don’t want to come to a crowded place. They want to have their privacy,” she said, and patients will be able to make treatment appointments on the mobile unit.
“We expect this thing to be on the road every single day,” he said, starting in “a couple of weeks.”