Healthcare for homeless - new “Outreach for Life” program

07/10/07 Seán Kinane
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This morning in Tampa was the official launch of a new program to provide medical care to homeless people in Hillsborough County. A Mobile Medical Van was available at the offices of Mental Health Care on Nebraska Avenue in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. Stephanie Theaker is Chief Operation Officer for Tampa Community Health Centers, one of the partner groups of what is being called “Outreach for Life” to provide healthcare to the homeless. Theaker described the services available in the mobile medical van.

“On the van we do full service, we do screenings, we do health maintenance checks, we do blood pressure checks and we do any other types of screenings that are needed.” [Q: Who is eligible for these services?] “Anybody can use the van, but it primarily targets the homeless and the underserved community of the different areas that it goes to.”

The Mobile Medical Van usually operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays and by appointment on other days. The van visits many areas where homeless people gather, according to Theaker.

“They’ve actually been to Mental Health Center, they go to the springs, they go to parks, they go to churches; we do a lot of churches. And we go to any area we feel like the homeless is gathering. Like different feeding sites, Salvation Army, anywhere we feel like homeless or the underserved community is, that’s where we go. To the different housing authorities on the weekends, we go there also.”

The Outreach for Life project recently received a grant through the Allegany Foundation, a funding organization in Pinellas County. Theaker said the grant allowed the services provided by the Mobile Medical Van to be revitalized.

“The van has been around now for almost ten years. And with the funding of the Allegany grant we’ve been able to revitalize, I should say the services that we provide on the van.”

Along with the Tampa Community Health Centers, other partners in Outreach for Life include the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County and the insurance company WellCare. Lesa Weikel is the Community Relations Manager for the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County. She said that the partnership helps to bring heath care to the homeless, which can assist them in getting back on their feet.

“We have been able though this partnership, to connect homeless people who often do not have the resources to access health care, though this medical van they can receive not only physical health care, but also mental health screenings. And this provides them a way to increase their stability, increase their health and can set them on a path to self-sufficiency.”

John Aberg is the Vice President of Corporate Communication at WellCare and explained why his company became a partner with Outreach for Life.

“We’re a sponsor in the Outreach for Life Program that unveiled the Mobile Medical Van today. …Partnerships with programs like this are one way that we help fulfill our mission and give back to the communities we serve, so that makes a lot of sense for us.”

Robert Engler was examined in the Mobile Medical Van. He is pleased with the medical services provided.

“I’ve been coming around here for about a year and a half now. And this program changed my whole life. I have hope now. If it hadn’t been for these people …”

WMNF followed Lori Gordon while she received a medical examination in the Mobile Medical Van. She got her blood pressure, weight, and temperature checked before being assessed by Erin Atkinson, a nurse practitioner with Tampa Community Health Center. Gordon is pleased that such a program exists.

“Very pleased with these people, very happy that they’re helping me with everything that I’m going through. Because I’m down right now, but with these people helping me, it’s a wonderful program.”

That was Lori Gordon speaking at today’s official launch of Outreach for Life, a mobile medical van that brings medical care to the homeless. You can learn more about the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County on their website, .

Learn More:

Tampa Community Health Center, 813-866-0930

Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County


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