The Crews’n Healthmobile in Phoenix, Arizona is a unique health program for high-risk adolescents up to age 24 that consists of a wellness center at a family shelter and a mobile medical unit, known as “Big Blue,” housed in a 38-foot van outfitted with three exam rooms and the latest medical technology. In addition to the program director, the staff includes two pediatricians, three nurses, three case managers and a financial advocate who split their time between the clinic and the van. Crews’n Healthmobile is an outreach effort of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. It serves roughly 1,500 adolescents and young adults a year through 6,500 medical visits.
Crews’n Healthmobile provides a comprehensive set of services for adolescents, confidentially and free of charge. The services include preventive care, immunizations, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, mental health screening and treatment, prescription drugs, and minor surgical procedures. The program also has a very extensive health education program that offers counseling and information on injury prevention, smoking cessation, prenatal care, sexually transmitted infections, abstinence, HIV, hepatitis, depression, anxiety, mood disorders, suicide risk, substance abuse, nutrition, relationships, safety issues, and self-care management. There is a particular emphasis on self-care management, and nurses and case workers have specific times available to mentor and support adolescents and answer any questions they may have about their care. In addition, they assist with referrals for care, Medicaid applications, and enrollment in the comprehensive educational programs offered on-site at the clinic.
An important focus of the program is disease prevention, risk reduction, and the promotion of healthy living within the community. Staff attempt to reach all at-risk youth, not just by caring for those at the shelter, but by parking Big Blue in areas where teens tend to congregate, such as teen drop-in centers, faith-based organizations, and schools with a high population of homeless and vulnerable teens. They help refer homeless youth to shelters and often supply them with clothes and a shower. At the shelter they operate a health care career club and help young women complete their GED and apply to nursing school. They offer physical activity classes and have organized a “mini marathon” program for youth. Crews’n Healthmobile staff also organized a huge farmer’s market that provides residents of the shelter fruits and vegetables free of charge and are hoping to expand to all members of the community.
The Crews’n Healthmobile is funded through various sources, including Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the Children’s Health Fund, and UMOM New Day Center. Most of the youth lack health insurance, though many become enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program with the help of the program’s case managers. The director and founder of the program, Dr. Randal Christenson, chronicled his experiences in a book, Ask Me Why I Hurt: The Kids Nobody Wants and the Doctor Who Heals Them.
For more information, please visit http://www.phoenixchildrens.com/community/healthcare-outreach/crewsnhealthmobile/.