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by Amy Crowley

Access to healthcare is still unattainable to many within our underserved communities. The Deaconess Foundation is on a mission to change this and took action this year through its Health Check Mobile Health Van.


For many in our communities, paying for medical care and out-of-pocket insurance costs is not an option. But, finding a physician who accepts Medicaid coverage can be a frustrating and challenging process — something that many patients are unequipped to manage. The result? They either do not seek medical care at all or they utilize hospital emergency rooms as a way to gain access to the care they need. This stresses an already burdened hospital system and ultimately increases medical costs for everyone.

Enter the Deaconess Health Check Mobile Health Van. After identifying this healthcare gap in 2018 and realizing just how prevalent the problem was in the Greater Cincinnati area, the Deaconess team took immediate action.

In February of 2019, the 41-foot mobile van began traveling every weekday to various locations. The van includes two exam rooms, a restroom and waiting area and a staff which consists of a medical director (with dual certifications in addiction and primary care), practice manager, nurse practitioner (who specializes in mental health) and medical assistant.

“As much as possible, we travel to destinations such as the YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter, Anna Louise Inn or the downtown Public Library. These locations pose less of a threat to many of the patients we see,” said Heidee Friestuhler, practice manager. “If we attempted to travel to neighborhoods, for example, some of our program participants — victims of domestic violence or human trafficking or those recovering from addiction — simply wouldn’t come to see us. We had to find safe places for them to feel free to step onto the van for care.”

The Deaconess team’s mission is to not only educate patients of all ages on proper self-care, including diet, exercise, prevention and chronic disease management but also to treat patients with the utmost respect and dignity and provide services with zero judgement. By treating an estimated 2,000 patients (mostly uninsured) by year’s end with common diagnoses including hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, sexually transmitted infections and mental health issues, Deaconess is tackling this issue head-on to change the cycle of addiction, abuse, illness and disease for our most vulnerable populations.


The Health Collaborative is proud to honor the Deaconess Foundation as a FINALIST for the 2019 Inspire Gen-H Award. Through its mobile van efforts, its dedication to providing access to healthcare will improve health outcomes across our communities.


Watch for more articles profiling the work of our award finalists throughout October, as we lead up to the 2019 Inspire Healthcare Dinner and Awards Celebration!