A line of people snaked around the Interstate 90 bridge columns on a warm Wednesday evening last month, waiting for meals, haircuts and hygiene supplies. For four of them, the visit to Blessings Under the Bridge’s weekly event came with an added bonus: medical care through a newly established mobile nurse practitioner’s office.
Leaders with Blessings and Molina Healthcare hope to see that number grow in the weeks and months ahead.
Don Sanada, associate vice president for business development at Molina Washington, said the mobile unit, which has one nurse practitioner and one medical assistant, will provide care for the uninsured, those on Medicaid or who already receive care through Molina.
The clinic is also connected to the same health care records-keeping system many Spokane hospitals use, which may help patients easily connect with primary health care providers. He said the clinic also hopes to reconnect patients who may have lost contact with their doctors.
An occasional patron of Blessings Under the Bridge and one of the earliest patients at the new Molina Mobile Healthcare unit, Kelly Lambert said she has been able to access some health care services through the House of Charity clinic but hasn’t received treatment or a diagnosis for her chronic hip pain. She said she also thinks she may have pulled a muscle in her arm and injured her knee in a fall a week before her visit, which has made daily life even more difficult.
“It took all I had just to walk up here,” she said.
Lambert, who has been homeless for a little over a year, said she hopes connecting with the mobile health care unit will help with her injuries, as well as her chronic pain.
“You go to certain doctors and they can’t do anything,” she said. “I want to see what they can do for me because I’m not getting help anywhere else.”
Jessica Kovac, founder and executive director of Blessings Under the Bridge, said the organization has worked with Molina for about two years and the mobile unit has been in the works for about a year. In the past, the organization has only been able to offer basic care items and first-aid, like hand sanitizer or bandages, and a few local care providers have offered specialized treatment or vaccinations.
“This is a pretty big thing, because it’s consistent,” she said.
Speaking a week later, Kovac said the unit was able to serve almost twice the amount of people in its second week and is looking to bring in more staff for future events.
Sanada said the clinic is committed to serving anyone at Blessings Under the Bridge every Wednesday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. for the foreseeable future. They are also looking to travel the county and host medical care events for Molina members.
The clinic, a modified commercial RV, is accessible for anyone with mobility issues, and has two exam rooms and a lab to run tests on-site. The unit’s staff will probably be able to serve between four and six patients an hour, depending on the medical issues in question, Sanada said. They can take care of minor injuries and conduct tests, he said, but the clinic is not meant to be a replacement for primary care providers.
He said the mobile unit will provide rapid influenza and strep throat screenings, check blood glucose levels, conduct retinal eye exams, urine analysis and other services that are typically offered in a brick-and-mortar clinic.