No van, no problem: Families First serves clients in Seacoast parking lots
Deb Cram, Portsmouth Herald
The two Families First medical vans, nicknamed Jennie and Marge, are both in the shop, forcing health care providers to serve clients in local parking lots.
When they’re running properly, the colorful vans are seen throughout the Seacoast area, traveling to various locations to serve clients of the Greater Seacoast Community Health and Families First organization. The vans bring health services to shelters, soup kitchens, community organizations and provide a mobile “office” where physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, care coordinators and counselors provide services to people in need.
The vans also carry donations of various items such as blankets, clothing, gift cards, food and snacks. When they have items such as tents, toiletries, sneakers, boots, sleeping bags, winter wear and reading glasses, they will give them to clients, too. Donations are always needed.
On Thursdays people normally find the health care van outside St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth since the soup kitchen called Common Table always starts at noon. This Thursday, the van wasn’t in the parking lot but the caring health staff was.
Working on a folding table with camp chairs shaded by a small tree in the corner of the lot were Sally Naredla, clinical coordinator, Lynne DeAmelio-Rafferty, mobile-health care coordinator, and Kathleen Rafferty, homeless outreach specialist for the Community Action Program. They worked their phones and laptops, connecting clients with needed services.
There were blood pressure checks, flu shots, listening and helping as the temperature in the parking lot neared 80 degrees.
“It certainly makes it more challenging for us but it’s important to us to provide medical and social services and have continuity for our clients so they always know where to find us,” Naredla said. “We have to stay consistent.”
DeAmelio-Rafferty laughed while reflecting about working in a Rochester parking lot.
“I actually got a sun burn yesterday, but hey, no worries!”
In a recent article in Mass General Hospital Institute of Health Professionals Magazine, Naredla shared: “Today, I truly feel that I have found my calling. We connect patients to mental health resources, substance use treatment, and dental care as well as area community service organizations that may be able to help our patients get back on their feet.
“It is so inspiring to collaborate with other community service-oriented professionals who share my calling and desire to serve the destitute. With the benefit of experience, I find myself looking every day at my patients and colleagues and saying yet again, These are my people.”
The nonprofit organization of Families First depends on donations to survive.