NEW BEDFORD — Southcoast Health‘s Wellness Van has done a lot of good in its life, bringing health services like screenings and vaccinations directly into the neighborhoods and communities where they are needed most. Now, the single diesel-powered Southcoast Wellness Van is making way for two fully electric vehicles that will continue the Southcoast Community Wellness Program‘s mission in a way that’s as Earth-friendly as it is people-friendly.
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.
Breaking down barriers
“For more than 25 years, the Southcoast Wellness Van has played a critical role in breaking down barriers to care by bringing access to health education, vaccinations, and screenings to socially vulnerable populations in our community,” said Southcoast Health Director of Community Health and Wellness Rachel Davis in a press release. “Our new electric vehicles will enable us to expand these valued services, with a more environmentally conscious and sustainable approach.”
With switch also means those seeking the mobile services are far less likely to find themselves standing in a parking lot waiting their turn. According to Davis, the delivery of services will be adapted so that health care providers are working within the locations they travel to.
“Unlike the Wellness Van, which was self-contained, the SUVs allow the Community Wellness team’s efforts 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 collaborating with community partners and bringing services into their locations that patients are familiar with.”
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As far as fuel savings, Davis noted a pre-pandemic average of $4,800 a 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 in the new program,” she wrote.
Driven to beat COVID
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Southcoast’s mobile health services were invaluable, providing important education and resources to the community outside of clinical offices, Davis said. “To date, more than 1,529 vaccines have been administered through our mobile outreach,” she said in the Southcoast press release. “This accomplishment highlights the outstanding impact this grassroots approach has in our communities and the need to further expand this work in the future.”
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The Community Wellness Program’s mobile outreach is part of a group of initiatives in Southcoast CARES that support ongoing population health initiatives and expand access to services, outreach, education and connection to basic health and social resources. Working across various Southcoast departments and in partnership with community organizations, the Community Wellness Program provides preventive screenings and health education, immunizations, physician referrals, connection to social services, nutritional information and education, COVID-19 resources, and more.
“It’s difficult for many people in our community to access health services because of linguistic barriers or a lack of information and transportation,” said Manager of Community Health and Wellness Alison LeBert. “Starting with two vehicles and a specialized team, we will build on our existing community partnerships and develop new relationships in our ongoing efforts to reach more of those who need care.”
To learn more about the Community Wellness program and Southcoast Cares, visit Southcoast Healt
This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: Southcoast Health Van replaced by two electric vehicles