Health Watch: Teen van takes medical care on the road

1.4 million students in public schools are homeless. That often means no health insurance or access to a doctor's office.

That's not stopping one San Francisco Bay area hospital from providing care. If the kids won't go to the doctor's office, they'll bring the care to them... for free.

"You would think that in our country all of our teens would have healthcare. But, as time goes on we're actually seeing that the needs are increasing," said Lisa Lestishock, RN, Teen Van - Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford.

And that's where the big blue bus comes in, better known as the teen van.

For more than 20 years, this doctor's office on wheels has provided care to those between ten and 25. With support from Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, all care and medicine are free.

"I was really surprised that it was free," said Erika Roland Fernandez.

That allows the teen van to focus on those in need.

"We can be out in the community meeting kids where they are," explained Megen Vo, MD, Interim Medical Director, Teen Van - Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford.

"One of the students I've been working with, he is 18 years old. He is currently homeless," said Nathalie Servin, Social Worker, Teen Van - Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford.

"Forty percent of our patients either are homeless or have been homeless," Dr. Vo shared.

So far, the van has treated more than 4,500 patients since it started. On board are a doctor, nurse, nutritionist, and social worker to address the various needs of the patients.

"Every kid that comes to the van gets a pretty comprehensive assessment," stated Lestishock.

With a return rate of 70%, the team can develop a level of trust with patients.

"Sometimes many teenagers do feel alone. With the social worker, I was able to talk to her about personal problems," smiled Erika.

And that makes all the difference for the teen van's young patients.

The teen van provides care at schools and community centers within the San Francisco Bay area.

Several other programs caring for the underserved are offered in cities across the country.

For instance, New York City's Center for Urban Community Services' health van is devoted solely to helping those living on the streets.

Contributors: Jennifer Winter, Field Producer; Jamison Koczan, Editor; and Rusty Reed, Videographer.
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