Free mobile clinic reaches out to Latino communities



WALLINGFORD — An upcoming health fair at the Spanish Community of Wallingford is one of many efforts taking place across the region to help Latinos who may not have access healthcare.

The next SCOW health fair is on Jan. 31, hosted in partnership with Hartford HealthCare Neighborhood Health, to provide several testing services including glucose, cholesterol, and rapid Hep C and HIV testing.

The clinic also administers COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines for shingles, pneumonia, and tetanus. While insurance is accepted, it is not required. Appointments are also not required.

“Hosting the health fair at our agency will give access to our clients who are under insured and new to town to receive essential information and vaccines that they may otherwise not be able to receive,” said SCOW Executive Director Adriana Rodríguez.

Founded in August 2021, Neighborhood Health is a free mobile health clinic that provides a hybrid of urgent care and primary care, explained System Clinical Director Kelly Toth. The clinic provides an all-inclusive approach to care, featuring community health workers and social workers along with medical personnel, she added.

“Our vans are truly the equipment and people movers,” Toth said. “We then set up a full-on medical clinic at a brick and mortar site complete with our own network, medical and testing equipment, and even basic care items like hygiene products, socks, underwear and snacks.”

Some services provided by Neighborhood Initiative

  • Various urgent care needs
  • Blood pressure screening
  • Blood sugar screening
  • Urinalysis
  • Pregnancy screening
  • Lab tests: A1C, Cholesterol, Hepatitis C, Hemoglobin, HIV, Flu, symptomatic COVID-19
  • Referrals to social services and behavioral health,
  • Immunizations: Tetanus (Tdap), Pneumonia, Shingles, Hepatitis B, Meningitis, Gardasil, Polio, Flu
  • COVID-19 vaccine

Building trust with the Latino community

Since Neighborhood Health began, the team has seen over a thousand Latinos, who make up about one-third of all visits, Toth estimated.

To build trust with the Latino community, Neighborhood Initiative partnered with Hispanic Health Council in Hartford. They host a clinic at the Mi Casa site at 590 Park St. on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month. 

Janely Betances, a Community Health Worker at Hispanic Health Council, helps promote the event and coordinate with Neighborhood Health. Originally part of the council’s the coronavirus response, Betances first became involved with the clinic while promoting the vaccine. 

In late 2021, she remembered how only a few people would show up for at the clinic in a given day. Now, she says about 15-20 people show up consistently.

“It's all about trust,” she said. “They [Neighborhood Health] build trust within these communities, especially in the Hispanic community where there's a lot of mistrust, even of doctors and medication and vaccines.”

She explained that consistency was especially important to serving undocumented people, because many think that migration status is part of receiving healthcare, especially in Hartford’s Frog Hollow neighborhood where there are a lot of undocumented Latinos.

“This [clinic] is something that our community needs,” she said. “You don't need to have insurance. You don't even need to have ID. You don't need to make an appointment. It's just a walk-in clinic, and it's perfect because there's a lot of people are undocumented.”

Referrals program

Another main goal of Neighborhood Health is to make sure patients are connected to health care before they leave the clinic, Toth explained. They partner with federally qualified health centers in the communities they visit and often refer patients to medical specialists. 

Betances remembers a recent case of an undocumented Peruvian family that came to the clinic and were able to enroll their kids in free healthcare through HUSKY health. 

“They were actually really happy that they had found this place because it's hard for them to get insurance,” she said.

Neighborhood Initiative in Meriden

The Neighborhood Initiative is made up of one core team that splits its time between different regions of Connecticut, spending eight days a month in Hartford, four days a month in the northwest corner and four days a month in the eastern part of the state, Toth said. She added that they are in the process of onboarding a second core team to further expand to other areas of the state. 

In Meriden, the Neighborhood Initiative hosted its monthly clinic at Rushford at 883 Paddock Ave. on Friday. There are plans for Rushford to become a regular site once Neighborhood Health has fully launched in the Central Region, Toth said.

Meanwhile, the clinic continues to host ongoing health fairs with organizations like SCOW.

“By having free health services at SCOW and other organizations,” Rodríguez said, “we create an opportunity to start a conversation about health and preventative care measures to ensure a healthier future.”

lguzman@record-journal.com Twitter: @lguzm_n 

Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re, To learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.



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