For Sheltiere Sheppard, this van and the people on it are lifesavers.
“They cleaned my teeth, gave me the proper steps I need to get where I need to go,” Sheppard said. “It was fun, nice, and I got the help I needed.”
He is one of the hundreds of people being treated in Rochester on Rochester Regional Health’s Mobile Medical Unit.
“To really get to homeless individuals, it’s important to go where they are,” said Medical Director Dr. Carlos Swanger. “Our mobile unit allows us to go to different shelters in the community. It makes it easier for patients to access our services.”
Since 2011, this particular unit has provided medical care twice a week and dental care three times a week. They take it to different homeless shelters in the area.
“I just think what we do is really special and really important,” said Dr. Marina Skrombolas, a dentist. “These patients, a lot of times, don’t know where to go for care. A lot of times they don’t have insurance, so they don’t think they can get care. We even help them get insurance.”
Surveys have shown there are about 8,000 homeless people in our community. Last year, Rochester Regional Health helped 1,800 people with this unit – so there is still more work to be done.
“One of the problems we’ve always seen with our underserved or homeless folks it that they don’t always have a great concept of what preventive care is, so they wait until there’s a problem,” said Dr. Swanger. “Sometimes waiting quite a long time, by then it’s serious problem, and they end up getting their care in the emergency room.”
The doctors hope more people take advantage of this service. It’s funded by grants, and all the services provided are free.
“Sometimes we’ll just fix their front tooth because it’s chipped, and they don’t even know that’s a possibility for them. And it kind of changes their whole demeanor and really changes their lives,” said Dr. Skrombolas. “They’re so much more confident when they leave.”
A special group of medical providers – that are healing and changing lives.