Mobile van brings mental health, addiction resources to Maple Valley

Innovative approach builds community one connection at a time

Access to care for those with substance use disorders and mental health issues presents complex challenges for communities in King County.

An innovative new mobile clinic aims to help.

The Valley Cities Mobile Clinic team works to reach those who need help, especially in more rural and outlying areas.

“We’ll park the van with a clearly marked sign of our services at Maple Valley Food Bank on Tuesdays between 10:30 to 5 p.m. When people walk up, we’ll help them sign up for Medicaid, direct mental health or substance use services,” explains Scott Stewart, Program Manager for the Mobile Behavioral Health Clinic. “Eventually, we hope to have a website that shows where the mobile van is at any time for access of care.” The van will be positioned in a manner that is inviting to avoid any invisible barriers someone might have. He says, “We will provide a broad spectrum of services to include: Assisting people with Medicaid enrollment, providing initial mental health and susbstance use disorder serivces and case management (to name a few). We are currently developing innovative ways to communicate the mobile unit’s location to further reduce barriers.

The Mobile Behavioral Health Clinic program has been a long-term goal for leadership at Valley Cities and made possible by a generous grant from the Murdoch Foundation. “We are also partnering with King County who is providing financial support to help make this program a reality”, says Stewart.

Joanna Wilner, a certified licensed social worker and MHP, will be providing community outreach and mental health services on the van and will be joined by a licensed substance use disorder counselor, who will also provide community outreach and addiction related services.

Following the initial intake process, individuals will then be referred to one of Valley Cities’ outpatient sites. If the client cannot make it to their physical site, they will be able to engage in services utilizing Telehealth. If they do not have a phone, they will be provided with a free Smartphone that will give them access.

Breaking down barriers to help

Addiction and mental health challenges are often unseen in rural areas: “These challenges exist, sometimes on a generational level. Due to the remote nature of the areas, accessing services can be difficult, if not impossible due to a lack of resources”, Stewart says. “At Valley Cities, we want people to know that there are options regardless of their address, that we have their best interests at heart, and that they have a voice in the care we give them”, Stewart says.

The mobile unit will partner with local groups and community stakeholders to ensure we are positioned to reach the most people. The van will be located at a different site, Monday through Friday, to ensure that they have the greatest reach.

Their ultimate goal is to make treatment reachable to all those who want it. “I firmly believe that quality behavioral healthcare is a right, not a privilege. The traditional model of care requires people to come to the services. We want to create a model that meets people where they are at”, says Stewart.

“Until we’re able to make treatment more accessible than the substances, we will not overcome this addiction or mental health problem. If we can’t make access to care easier, we’ll continually miss the mark to provide care for human beings who need it”, Stewart concludes.

For information about Valley Cities and their many health resources visit valleycities.org.

Connect with the Valley Cities Mobile Truck on Tuesdays, between 10:30 to 5 p.m., at Maple Valley Food Bank, 21415 Renton-Maple Valley Rd. SE.

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