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Teen 'Health Van' to celebrate 15th anniversary

Lucile Packard's mobile clinic gives free care to poor and homeless adolescents

The Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Adolescent Health Van will commemorate 15 years of free health care for low-income youth this September, the hospital announced.

The 8-by-36 foot clinic-on-wheels, founded in 1996 by Packard assistant clinical professor Seth Ammerman, M.D., uses a one-stop shopping "Medical Home" model. This allows uninsured "patients aged 10 to 25 to receive primary health care, specialty care, medications, laboratory work, nutrition counseling, mental health care and social work services."

Ammerman serves as the van's medical director and works with five other staff members, including a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, social worker and nutritionist. John Donovan, the van driver, doubles as the clinic registrar.

The van regularly circulates around the Bay Area, making stops at schools and community agencies in Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties, including local sites such as East Palo Alto High School in Menlo Park.

More than 3,500 young people have utilized the van's services during its tenure, with three-quarters of these patients returning for follow-up care.

According to the Stanford School of Medicine website, Ammerman attributes the van's popularity to a combined enthusiasm shared between the staff and the youth.

"Our whole staff is very sensitive to the youth, and really like working with teens, which is important," he said. "But it's the youth themselves who promote our program, who tell their friends about it, and so on."

Ammerman hopes to expand the van's availability from half-time to full-time in the coming years, citing "the economic downturn (that) has brought many kids to the Van whose parents lost jobs and health insurance."

The mobile clinic's $650,000 annual budget is largely funded by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health as well as the Children's Health Fund nonprofit.

More information is available on the Teen Health Van's website.

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