Supporters of Doctors Without Walls – Santa Barbara Street Medicine (DWW) gathered at Gauthier Wear Art on July 21 for a “launch party” for its new mobile medical van. The van, made possible by a $65,000 grant from the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, will enable the nonprofit to greatly expand the health-care services it provides to homeless and low-income individuals.
During the short program. Paul Jaconette, board president and COO of CenCal Health, rejoiced in how the van adds to DWW’s small arsenal of equipment to take care of the most vulnerable members of our community. Boardmember Father Jon-Stephen Hedges, after getting a laugh from the crowd when he noted that this was his first “van blessing,” proceeded with a lovely blessing of the new vehicle. An official ribbon-cutting with the enormous Santa Barbara scissors followed, which drew grand cheers from the supporters. Santa Barbara Fire Chief Pat McElroy along with several other members of the Fire and Police departments were on hand to celebrate this milestone.
The vehicle is a wheelchair-accessible Ford Connect Mobility Van. It has removable seats to allow it to both transport a large number of passengers and to have an ample-sized exam area.
Doctors Without Walls has only one paid staff person, executive director Maria Long, who oversees 13 interns and nearly 200 volunteers, including 19 physicians. Last year, DWW served 525 unduplicated clients. It sets up mobile medical clinics in Pershing and Alameda parks each week, where it treats a wide range of health problems. It can now offer exams in the privacy of the van instead of in the open park settings. DWW is also on call 24/7 to respond to emergencies, and the van will revolutionize this aspect of its services.
DWW operates the Women’s Free Homeless Clinic at Transition House three Fridays per month. Staffed by an internist, podiatrist, and other healthcare professionals, the Clinic offers medical care and mental health counseling, as well as acupuncture, showers, a hot lunch by Anthony’s Organic Soup Kitchen, laundry services, donated clothing and hygiene items, and referrals to other services. The van just had its maiden trip transporting women between locations throughout Santa Barbara and Goleta and the clinic.
In addition to improving the services the nonprofit already provides in Santa Barbara, the van will also make possible Doctors Without Walls’ long-held dream of expanding into the North County. The board is currently in discussions with North County groups and planning its expansion.
Executive director Long shared how “we are so grateful to the Women’s Fund for their generous support, and the Doctors Without Walls team is thrilled to be able to expand our scope of work to reach so many people who deserve high-quality medical care.”
The organization is holding its annual Glow in the Park fundraiser on September 10 at Elings Park. The event includes tethered balloon rides, a gourmet field dinner, and dancing amid illuminated hot air balloons. For more information, go to sbglowinthepark.org.
For more information about Doctors Without Walls – Santa Barbara Street Medicine, go to sbdww.org.
Gail Arnold is a freelance writer for The Santa Barbara Independent and the volunteer grant writer for Doctors Without Walls – Santa Barbara Street Medicine.