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Mobile Clinics to Provide Medical, Emotional Care for Underserved AZ Students

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A new mobile medical service will provide health care and behavioral services for some 11,000 Arizona students over the next three years. (fizkes/Adobe Stock)
A new mobile medical service will provide health care and behavioral services for some 11,000 Arizona students over the next three years. (fizkes/Adobe Stock)

 By Mark Richardson - Producer, Contact
June 10, 2021

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Studies estimate about 60% of Arizona children do not have regular access to primary health care, but a new grant program is looking to change that.

The Valle del Sol Community Health group is planning a fleet of mobile medical teams to visit underserved communities across central Arizona to provide care to adolescent and teenage children.

The project is funded through a $3 million grant from the United Health Foundation, the philanthropic arm of UnitedHealth Group.

Wyatt Decker, CEO of UnitedHealth Group's OptumHealth, said the project is designed to meet both the physical and emotional needs of kids.

"We will have primary-care providers," said Decker, "behavioral-health workers and mental-health counselors that are in a mobile unit that is set up for kids to come in, in a school, and get evaluated."

With the grant, Valle del Sol will assemble medical teams to deliver primary, psychiatric and behavioral health services in school and foster-care settings or via telehealth.

The program launches in July, and is expected to serve 11,000 kids over three years.

Valle del Sol will coordinate with school systems and foster group homes to identify children who may need medical or emotional support. Decker said the grant will be used to purchase three mobile medical units and fund the care teams.

"The hope is that we'll be able to address a lot of these gaps in care," said Decker, "and make sure kids are succeeding and getting every opportunity to do well in school and move forward."

He said studies show that the pandemic has heightened students' need for emotional support.

"And where we really worry is what about individuals or communities that don't have access to behavioral health services," said Decker. "And so that's a big focus, is how do we create access to mental-health services in the school systems."

Valle del Sol officials say the medical mobile units will provide many of the same health care and behavioral services they have delivered at their network of community-based clinics across the metro Phoenix area since 1970.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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