Mass General Brigham’s new vans make health care accessible for local communities

Newly designed “Community Care Vans” were unveiled by Mass General Brigham on Monday, as the hospital broadens its mobile health care outreach in Greater Boston.

The Community Care Van program was launched in 2021, as a way to provide COVID-19 vaccines during the height of the pandemic to the city’s most vulnerable residents. The program will now offer expanded services for cardiometabolic conditions like diabetes and hypertension, cancer screening, substance use disorder screening and treatment referrals and ongoing assessments based on social determinants of health.

“Now we have these clinics on wheels that really allow us to bring world class high quality care that individuals get when they walk into any of our brick and mortar facilities, right here out in the community,” said Dr. Priya Sarin Gupta, medical director for community-based clinical programs at Mass General Brigham.

Gupta said since the program launched in 2021, the vans have had over 25,000 patient encounters. In the past year they’ve seen nearly 7,000 just for cardiometabolic conditions.

The broadening of the program has also become a pillar of the hospital’s larger United Against Racism initiative — launched in 2020 — to address systemic racial inequities among patients, staff and the larger community. The vans currently serve Boston and North Shore neighborhoods.

“What this work allows us to do is really bring the care out to people for whom care often hasn’t been accessible, or they have huge mistrust about the healthcare system,” said Gupta. “And to bring it in a way that resonates with them.”

“It’s a dream come true for us to see the care continue to be accessible to my community,” Pastor “Keke” Dieufort Fleurissaint, president and executive director of the True Alliance Center, told GBH News.

Fleurissaint, who is Haitian and serves the Haitian community across Massachusetts, highlighted the importance of healthcare access for immigrants that is culturally competent. The mobile vans will be staffed with multilingual and multicultural staff.

“All the barriers, cultural barriers, language barriers — because those vans are being staffed by Haitian professionals … they can definitely help the patients get access to those cares,” he said.

“We are committed to caring not only for those patients who come through our doors every day, but also for the broader community, including those who often are not able to access traditional care, like communities of color who have borne the brunt of generational health inequities,” Dr. Anne Klibanski, president and chief executive officer of Mass General Brigham, said to the crowd of community partners and program staff at the unveiling outside the Prudential Center on Huntington Ave.

The three brand new vans each have a small reception area, Wi-Fi for patients while they wait, and an exam room like one you’d expect at the doctor’s office. Working with community partners on scheduling, the vans spend a maximum of four hours at each designated location.

“If they have any events going on, we’ll be there,” said Cesar Guerra, mobile operations manager. “We decide … the frequency, or how many times we can come to the community, depending on the need.”

For Guerra, it’s personal. He said the most fulfilling part of this work is serving his community.

“I work a lot in Chelsea. I work a lot in Revere. Those are communities that I’m a part of myself. So it just feels natural to kind of work in my own backyard,” he said.


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