Near North Health: 2021-2022

Over a dozen communities in Chicago are currently experiencing a healthcare desert. One solution to this terrible inequity recently got rolling. And this year, Near North Health (NNH) expects to improve healthcare access for approximately 1,000 patients with its Mobile Health Unit.

From nine health centers and three additional WIC sites, NNH is continually filling gaps in care for medically under-served communities across the city. This newer option expands access for folks who find it hard to get to a health center. Launched late last year, the new, 32-foot van is outfitted for medical, dental, nutrition, mental health, and outreach services. For example, many individuals stop in to receive a vaccination with no appointment.

The van co-locates with community-based organizations, health fairs, schools, houses of worship, and police stations. Regardless of the season, NNH staff are able to provide services to a group’s members, constituents, and anyone passing by. Whether services are provided indoors or outdoors, the big, bright vehicle parked outside advertises quick “pop-up” services. NNH also advertises via flyers and social media postings, so patients can learn exactly when and where to find appointment-free care.

In addition, partnering organizations play a critical role in connecting patients to services. For example, NNH shares agreements with Chicago Head Start and Early Head Start programs. This year, NNH expects these collaborations to serve at least 700 women and their children, up to age five. Additional partnering organizations include: Carole Robertson Center for Learning, Children’s Home & Aid, Cuddle Care Academy, It Takes a Village Early Learning Center, Marillac St. Vincent Family Services, Mary Crane Center and YMCA programs.

When the van is parked outdoors, a person can get served without entering a building they find intimidating. For many individuals, a stop at the reception or security desk, and numerous personal questions, is a significant barrier. The mobile option is especially helpful for persons experiencing homelessness, persons who lack certain documents, and families with children who can access care at a local school.

NNH is a nonprofit, federally qualified health center serving more than 36,000 people annually in and near the City of Chicago. NNH ensures that high quality, culturally competent, primary medical, dental, behavioral health, substance abuse, pharmacy, health education, insurance assistance, transportation, and other enabling services. No one is turned away for the inability to pay for care.