Wheeling-Ohio County’s Project HOPE Mobile Medical Clinic

January 21, 2020 | La Boit Specialty Vehicles | Client Spotlight, Medical | No Comments

Photo courtesy of Project HOPE

Wheeling, WV is the largest city in the West Virginian panhandle that separates Ohio and Pennsylvania. The city itself has a population around 27,000, with an additional 120,000 in the surrounding counties. Like any city, it has limited funding to provide services to its homeless citizens, from housing, health, addiction counseling, food, and other services.

According to the Housing and Urban Development’s most recent Annual Homeless Assessment Report, on any given night in the United States, approximately 568,000 people were experiencing homelessness. The “Point in Time” (PIT) count, as its called, aims to count homeless individuals in each community in order to provide statistics that local, state, and federal agencies can act upon.

Since the first PIT count in 2007, West Virginia saw steadily decreasing percentages of homelessness through 2016. However, that trend has reversed in the past three years, with homelessness rates in WV jumping 12.4% from 2018-2019. Despite a decreasing population, Wheeling’s PIT count increased from 91 in 2016 to 136 in 2019. It has, however, seen a decrease in those deemed “chronically” homeless, from 28 individuals in 2016 to 13 in 2019.

Besides stable housing, one of the most important services provided to the homeless population is health services. On average, a chronically homeless person can cost taxpayers about $35,000 per year, a large portion of that attributable to emergency room visits.

The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department has decided to do something about it. Through an initiative called Project HOPE (Homeless Outreach Partnership Effort), the health department is bringing together community stakeholders in medicine, along with social work and pastoral care, to provide basic medical care, food, water, clothing, followup appointments, and information on agencies and services to its homeless population.

The signature service of Project HOPE is their 26ft mobile medical unit, delivered in November 2019 and custom-built by La Boit Specialty Vehicles, which will provide on-location medical services to homeless shelters, encampments, and other homeless hot spots.

“Bridging the gap between the homeless and the health care system through direct street outreach,” their mission statement says.

The fully-equipped medical vehicle is capable of providing medical attention and conducting clinical testing, and contains all of the amenities and equipment you’d expect to see in a doctor’s office, including private exam room with x-ray, blood draw chair, exam lights, as well as a separate reception area.

Photo courtesy of Project HOPE

The project is being spearheaded by Dr. William C. Mercer, Wheeling-Ohio County health officer and founder of the health department’s Project HOPE, and Crystal Bauer, registered nurse, and director of Project HOPE. Mercer tells The Intelligencer that they are getting plenty of energetic support from the medical and healthcare community. Wheeling Hospital will provide free medications and other services, and 40 volunteers have stepped up so far to staff the mobile clinic and make regular stops to where the homeless can be found.

“We’ve come a long way,” Mercer said. “We’ve made this a fantastic program.”

The unit’s cost of $186,000 was partially mitigated by a generous gift of $100,000 from New Life United Methodist Church on Wheeling Island and the remainder of the costs were covered by Project HOPE funds, departmental sources and other grants.

One of the true powers of a mobile medical clinic is the ability to take services directly to the people and reach chronically underserved populations. Local and state health departments especially have found that mobile clinics are particularly beneficial in meeting their stated missions of improving the health of their citizens. At La Boit Specialty Vehicles, we are honored to be a part of those missions.

About La Boit Specialty Vehicles

La Boit Specialty Vehicles president Gil Blais first started La Boit in his garage, where he hand-made organizational boxes for traveling veterinarians. Fast forward 37 years, La Boit Specialty Vehicles is now a leader in specialty vehicle manufacturing for the Veterinary, Spay/Neuter/Adoption, Dental, Medical, Command, and Bloodmobile industries.

La Boit Specialty Vehicles offers a variety of vehicles to suit your needs, from 18ft pull-behind trailers to 40ft drivable coaches, none of which require a CDL to drive. Best of all, our vehicles are commercially-built from the chassis up for your specific needs, and are never converted RVs.

Mission Statement:

Helping professionals around the world confidently deliver a higher level of service to their local markets by providing the highest quality custom mobile units in the industry!

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