Families First raising funds for new mobile health care van

Families First Health and Support Center in Portsmouth is looking to give its mobile health care van, nicknamed Big Blue, a new lease on life. The van, which provides medical and dental care and social work services to homeless people in the Seacoast, is on its last legs and Families First has kicked off a campaign to raise $ 270,000 to purchase and equip a new van.

“The mechanics have told us it’s really reaching the end of its lifespan in the next few months,” says Margie Wachtel, communications director for Families First.

The health center is trying to raise $ 25,000 through a crowd-funding campaign at newbigblue.org. Wachtel says Families First is also seeking contributions from donors, businesses, and grant funding.

The van served 700 homeless people last year. It travels throughout the region and stops at soup kitchens, shelters, and other sites in Rochester, Dover, Exeter, Hampton, and Portsmouth, according to Wachtel. Inside the van are two private rooms where patients can meet with health care providers and an area for meetings with social workers. Equipment inside the van includes blood-pressure equipment, otoscopes, opthalmascopes, an exam table, and an immunization refrigerator.

The van is also equipped to provide mobile dental services. Watchtel says Big Blue has been in service since 2002. It’s one of two vans that Families First uses as part of its mobile health care for the homeless program.

Families First provides general medical, dental, and prenatal care, parenting and family programs, and other services to insured and uninsured patients throughout the region.

—Larry Clow

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