VA debuts vans for bringing medical care to the veterans

By Tim Engstrom
Sidney Patterson, an Army veteran who previously experienced homelessness, cuts a ribbon Oct. 3 dedicating the new Mobile Medical Unit, which brings medical care to veterans.

ST. PAUL — The Minneapolis VA Health Care System presented its new Mobile Medical Unit on Oct. 3 outside the Catholic Charities Opportunity Center in St. Paul.

Catholic Charities runs many of the efforts to shelter and care for the homeless or people at risk of experiencing homelessness in St. Paul and  Minneapolis.

The VA’s mobile unit will allow the agency to reach veterans in one of Catholic Charities’ shelters or homeless veterans on the streets of St. Paul. It will be at 422 Dorothy Day Place in St.  Paul from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Tuesday.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter was present for the ribbon cutting.

“This challenge requires big thinking and big partnerships,” he said.

He thanked the VA and Catholic Charities.

“We need great organizations who are in the trenches with us,” Carter added.

The interior of a medical van.
A peek inside the new VA van.

Sidney Patterson, an Army veteran who previously experienced homelessness, held the scissors that cut the ribbon. He described the places he has slept — abandoned buildings, inside cars, others — and said the mobile units for providing health care are a good idea.

“I can’t really tell you how important this is. When you are homeless, the last thing you are thinking about is your health,” he said.

Nationally, the VA is employing 25 new Mobile Medical Units, or MMUs.

Jonelle Glubke, director of the Minneapolis VA Homeless Programs, said the MMU represents a shift in thinking.

“What if we make it our responsibility to come to you?” she asked.

A news release from the Minneapolis VA states: “MMUs are vans or trucks that move from one location to another that can provide veterans with services such as health assessments and education, preventive care, referrals to VA homeless programs and other resources in the community. MMUs provide VA’s Homeless Patient Aligned Care Teams, or HPACTs, staff with the necessary infrastructure to provide care in community-based settings, all in a safe and confidential space with medical supplies and equipment readily available. HPACT MMUs provide a one-stop shop for wrap-around services that are integrated and coordinated, engaging veterans in intensive case management, and providing high-quality, culturally sensitive health care.”