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Constant evolution is the secret to the  Community Health Care Van’s longevity


The Community Health Care Van team includes (l-r): Rolito Lopez, outreach worker; Sharon Joslin, APRN, clinical director; Clara Lengacher, family nurse practitioner student, Yale School of Nursing; Rolo Lopez, outreach worker; Leslie Sude, MD, associate professor, Pediatrics; Frederick Altice, MD, director; and Angel Ojeda, medical assistant.

A lot has changed in New Haven over the last 27 years. The city has seen new buildings added to its skyline, major Hollywood films shot in its streets and many milestones celebrated in its neighborhoods. 

Throughout all that change, one thing that has remained constant is Yale School of Medicine’s Community Health Care Van and its mission to serve New Haven’s neediest residents. 

Collectively a 40-foot mobile medical clinic, minivan and clinical space at 270 Congress Ave., the van provides free care and access to all. Physicians and nurses with YNHH, Yale School of Medicine and Yale School of Nursing work with physician residents and nursing students to deliver primary, HIV, behavioral health and addiction care for adults. Pediatric and maternity services include community-based health checks for newborns and mothers; weight and bilirubin checks for children; and blood pressure checks, depression screenings and lactation consultations for mothers.

“One reason the van has been in service for so long is that it has always evolved to meet the changing needs of our communities,” said Frederick Altice, MD, director, Community Health Care Van. “When we started nearly 30 years ago, New Haven had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, so the van provided prenatal care. We responded to the HIV epidemic by delivering diagnosis and treatment on our patients’ home turf. COVID-19 led to another evolution of our services.”

When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Community Health Care Van services expanded to include COVID prevention and education. The van’s outreach staff used a minivan to travel to communities most affected by the pandemic, distributing more than 10,000 masks and providing medical information.

Now, as the program reverts to pre-pandemic services, it will provide preventive, screening and treatment services for infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and C and sexually transmitted infections. It will also respond to the opioid epidemic by treating patients with opioid use disorder, distributing the overdose medication naloxone and providing overdose education. The van will also provide vaccinations, routine primary and episodic acute care and pregnancy testing. The van has received funding for this and other work from Yale New Haven Hospital’s medical staff.

“Going forward, we will continue to keep our finger on the pulse of the community,” Dr. Altice said. “We’re going to stay very connected to the people we serve so we can be as responsive as possible. That has always been our mission, and we will continue to make that the heart of what we do.”