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CareVan, a Mobile Health Clinic, Launches at Open Hearth

August 06, 2021

Hartford HealthCare testing teams brought nasal swabs and infection prevention advice to men staying at Hartford’s Open Hearth Shelter last year in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Months later, more teams arrived with vaccinations to protect against the potentially deadly virus.

Friday, Open Hearth was again part of a major HHC initiative as the system launched its Neighborhood Health Program and CareVans it will deploy across the state to address the gap in healthcare access for the people who need it most.

“We couldn’t be more excited to share the inauguration of our CareVans and activation of our mobile health strategy,” said HHC President and CEO Jeffrey Flaks. “Today is a good example of how we are already better than normal – committed to leaving no community and no person behind.”

CareVanKeith Grant, senior system director of infection prevention at HHC, said data long before the pandemic indicated a stark difference between life expectancy in Connecticut based on ZIP code. The pandemic, he explained, further highlighted this disparity and the need to take action.

“Normal is the space we’re comfortable in. We’re changing that to bring healthcare and bridge that gap, so if we experience another pandemic, people will experience it significantly differently,” Grant said.

The Neighborhood Health Program begins with two vans making scheduled stops in underserved areas. The first targeted areas are Hartford, Torrington, Winsted and Thomaston. Flaks said he expects the program to expand with more vans and clinics in the future.

Services available through the clinics are for people age 16 and older, and include:

  • Screenings for such conditions diabetes, prostate cancer and breast health.
  • Mental health counseling.
  • Medical referrals, including to primary care providers.
  • Patient education, counseling and support.
  • Lab tests.
  • Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines on select dates. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available through Sept. 15, also on select dates.

“These are men who ignore their health, use the emergency department as their primary care, or have things they shouldn’t have,” said Marilyn Rossetti, executive director of Open Hearth, referring to the men living there.

The endeavor, Flaks added, is to better equalize the availability of “world-class healthcare” for all Connecticut residents.

“This is among the most impactful things we do at Hartford HealthCare because it’s about changing people’s lives,” he said.

The innovative health clinics, Flaks said, will be adaptable, flexible and open to feedback to ensure access to the most necessary services and programs. Walk-ins and appointments for clinic stops are accepted. For more information, click here.