Mobile Medical Care Unit celebrates first anniversary
TRINITY - Pasco County’s Mobile Medical Care Unit celebrated its one-year anniversary with a rededication ceremony at the Medical Center of Trinity on April 22. Pasco Commissioner Pat Mulieri, other county officials and medical personnel took part in the MMCU birthday observance. The MMCU provides basic medical care to Pasco’s homeless population, estimated in 2010 at about 4,000 spread over the county’s 745 square miles. The bus was purchased in early 2011 and began limited weekly service between April and July of 2012. Full service began in August 2012 and since then, medical care has been provided to 1,200 clients; 1,100 flu shots have also been given.“This is serving those people who do not have access to medical care,” said Pasco-Pinellas Public Defender Bob Dillinger. “Most of the patients haven’t seen a doctor in two to five years.” A paid nurse practitioner and EMT driver, along with a team of medical volunteers, provide basic medical care like physicals, blood pressure and blood sugar monitoring and wound care. A limited partnership has been formed with Premiere Medical to help patients with dental emergencies, but Dillinger said he hopes to get a MMCU specifically for dental needs up and running in the near future. Lester Cypher, whose Volunteer Way nonprofit food charity in New Port Richey assists 20,000 low-income and homeless Pasco families a month, also spoke to the small crowd of people who gathered at the medical center for the rededication service. “I’m telling you, these people are lifesavers,” Cypher said. “I don’t think some of these people would be around without the Mobile Medical Care Unit and their assistance.” The MMCU helps reduce the number of emergency room visits homeless individuals make. Uninsured patients cost hospitals millions each year. “We are challenged almost every day with overcrowding in the ER,” said Leigh Massengill, CEO of the Medical Center of Trinity. “We see people come to us who could have avoided acute hospitalization with basic medical care.” The MMCU was purchased with private donations. Five Pasco hospitals, plus numerous other donations and sponsors, provided funding and the MMCU was placed under the control of the Public Defender’s Outreach Program, which was given $165,000 from the Florida Legislature to pay for the nurse practitioner and driver. The county houses the bus in one of its vehicle facilities and provides minor maintenance. The Pasco County Health Department oversees the nurse practitioner and uses their protocols and staff to help develop the program. Local businesses, individuals and organizations provide funds for fuel and vouchers for referrals, transportation and medication. Donations are always needed for bus vouchers, funds to obtain birth certificates and medical co-payments. Items like socks, bicycles, toiletries, snack bars, sturdy shoes, backpacks and canned foods are also needed. MMCU schedules are posted monthly in local homeless shelters. For questions or to find out how you can volunteer or make donations, call (727) 324-7823 or visit www.pascomobilehealth.org.