Mobile community clinic in Boston powered by Volta

Volta Power Systems Case Study, CareZONE

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Making healthcare more accessible with advanced energy

While effective treatments for people suffering from drug overdoses or addiction have become more readily available, struggling individuals may find it difficult to seek help. Shame surrounding their need for treatment, the often high costs, and difficulty scheduling an appointment at a static clinic are all barriers to receiving treatment. Frequently, those with the highest need for drug-related medical services are some of the least likely to reach out.

The Kraft Center for Community Health recognized this issue within the Boston community, and they wanted to create greater healthcare accessibility for some of the most vulnerable portions of the population: people without access to good healthcare, people experiencing homelessness and/or those living with addiction.

Ultimately they decided that a mobile medical center was the best solution, but how could they effectively power everything they’d need all day? Roaring generators would be too loud and disruptive, exhausting fumes into the air that patients would be breathing in. They needed something quiet and reliable that would provide them with all of the power they’d need.

“In the city of Boston, every single person lives within one to two miles of a treatment center, yet only 10-20% of people with an addiction disorder are receiving life-saving, effective treatment that we know works.”

– Dr. Elsie Taveras, Director of the Kraft Center for Community Health

Community Care in Reach® and the need for mobile power

The Kraft Center partnered with Winnebago Specialty Vehicles and Volta to develop specialty vehicles that allow them to offer quality healthcare wherever they’re parked. They called this mobile medical center the CareZONE.

Equipped with the Volta Power System, the CareZONE’s staff can easily provide professional healthcare services to individuals without worrying about the logistical issues that can arise when using a generator. Their services include medical treatments for addictions and infectious diseases, overdose prevention, education, preventative healthcare and connection to clinical resources.

“We can pretty much take care of any primary care or urgent care need that people have, and find a bed and get them into that bed that day,” says Dr. Jessie Gaeta of Boston Healthcare for the Homeless. “The CareZONE van brings state-of-the-art addiction treatment, harm reduction services, right to the place where people need it the most.”

The energy system uses a 6kWh pack that charges with a 6,000 watt alternator and utilizes a 3.6 kW inverter. If the system’s charge gets too low, the van has vehicle AutoStart capabilities that will continue providing the necessary power. Approximately the size of a Class B RV, the CareZONE allows the team to provide easily accessible, highly demanded medical services across higher-risk Boston neighborhoods.

To learn more about the Boston-based program, CareZONE, please watch the video.

Empowered with Volta to make a difference in the community

The CareZONE vehicles allow the Kraft Center to bring state-of-the-art medical care directly to the areas where the need is greatest. The Volta Power System eliminates the CareZONE’s dependency on generators to power essential equipment for operation:

  • Locking medical fridge for storing vaccines
  • Second fridge for food
  • All-day A/C
  • Wheelchair lift for increased accessibility
  • Wifi connection and laptop charging for easy on-site access to electronic medical records
  • Internal van lighting
  • Retractable awning to provide waiting patients with shade

The mobile units have allowed their team to develop and maintain trusting relationships with the people in these high-risk areas of Boston. From January 2018 through September 2019, the mobile CareZONE results are impressive:

Direct contact with 7,843 people who use drugs.

Distribution of 2,627 naloxone kits that counter opioid overdose effects.

Provided 632 buprenorphine prescriptions, used to treat people with an opioid use disorder.

73% of 1,024 patient encounters were returning patients.

According to Craig Regis, Program Manager at the Kraft Center for Community Health, “At some locations we’ve had 10-12 patient-encounters during a 4-hour deployment, which is a high volume for a high risk population with complex diagnoses.”

A shift to mobile care

The impact of the CareZONE van on the Boston community points toward a potential shift toward mobile healthcare vehicles to solve some of the industry’s most difficult problems.

“We decided to do something that others weren’t doing,” says Dr. Elsie Taveras, Director of the Kraft Center for Community Health. “What I would love to see in the future is to have the CareZONE program be seen as a best practice.”

For rural areas where health systems are 50 or 100 miles away, mobile clinics are already providing access to preventative care like life-saving CT scans for lung cancer detection. In low-income neighborhoods where families struggle with the cost of insurance, they can provide more affordable and accessible primary care, while also reducing stigma for infectious disease or addiction. The mobility of a healthcare vehicle allows the operators to work far more easily with community organizations who have already established relationships within the targeted population.

Mobile medical testing centers could revolutionize the time and space requirements for running medical tests. They could minimize the time patients wait to receive test results back and allow them to begin receiving treatment sooner.

For those interested in facilitating a similar program in their city, the Kraft Center team recommends communicating with community stakeholders early, often, and consistently. It’s important to ensure that everyone from the city to law enforcement to neighborhood coalitions are on the same page and in support. They also recommend reaching out to governmental bodies about licensures, even before your team is equipped with a vehicle.

While many aspects of care are still best performed in a brick and mortar health center, the benefits of being able to offer health services anywhere at any time can’t be overlooked. Thousands of people in Boston have benefitted from the Kraft Center’s CareZONE vehicles and the compassionate health care they provide. Volta is proud to have been part of a project that continues to have a positive impact on the Boston community and sets the standard for mobile health centers everywhere.

“I have hope again. The days that I go out on the van are the ones I love the most. The stories are heartbreaking but really stories of resilience.”

 – Dr. Jessie Gaeta of Boston Healthcare for the Homeless

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