NEW YORK – Children’s Health Fund launched its first mobile clinics for children in underserved New York City communities 35 years ago. Today you can find them in 15 states, providing care for more than 100,000 children each year. A recent major donation will help even more young people thrive.
Big blue buses bring the doctor’s office to the neighborhood. CHF targets young people living in shelters, and in poverty.
“Things were already stacked up against these children and families, too many barriers,” said CHF President and CEO Dr. Arturo Brito. “Now with the pandemic, it’s gotten even worse.”
The nonprofit’s clinics offer everything from immunizations to mental and dental care, in a one-stop shop. In New York City, providers are partners from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and the city’s Healthy and Ready To Learn program.
“The way we do it is not ideal,” Brito admitted. “It is what is necessary for every child.”
The mobile clinic stop in Harlem is not far from the Ali Forney Center for LGBTQ+ youth, an especially marginalized group when it comes to healthcare access.
A statement provided by Ali Forney’s Senior Director of Medical and Mental Health Services Beth Wolff explained the nuanced world her clients face when seeking treatment in traditional settings:
“The Ali Forney Center serves homeless LGBTQ youth and young adults ages 16-24 by providing wrap-around services such as housing, case management, and medical/mental health care. Through our work, we’ve witnessed the tremendous health disparities that exist for homeless queer youth and see how these disparities are increased and intensified if youth identify as transgender. Despite the increased need for care, queer youth are less likely to access health services. In medical settings, LGBTQ youth are often dead named (called by names they no longer use) and find themselves correcting or teaching medical providers. They are misgendered, placed in unsafe sex-segregated situations, and sometimes shamed by providers for asking for the care they deserve. This harmful treatment is simultaneously occurring while we manage the COVID -19 pandemic, the MPX public health crisis, and deal with the repercussions of devastating policies that are erasing the rights of queer and trans people of color. We need public and private health providers to commit to providing access to competent, affirming, and sex-positive medical care to queer and trans youth.”
“It’s intimidating to any of us, particularly to patients and families we see who are in under-resourced communities, who are often discriminated against,” Brito explained, “so here it makes it a lot easier to develop that relationship and it makes it a lot easier to be a provider for families when you have that trust.”
When Brito served as CHF’s South Florida Project director in the 90s, he connected with communities on a personal level.
“I myself came to this country as an immigrant when I was seven years old with my family,” Brito said, “and I understand what it’s like to not have access to health care.”
The pediatrician Brito’s family found inspired his own community-driven career. Now CHF can drive health home even more, with a recent $1.5 million donation from the largest-ever Red Nose Day.
“We could do so much more because there’s such a need around the country and in New York City,” Brito said.
The funds will increase staffing and services for those who need it most, bringing CHF closer to its goal of serving an additional 50,000 kids each year.
The clinic comes to the corner of 126th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard in Harlem once a month.
Appointments are made through Montefiore. To learn more, click here.
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