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Planned Parenthood Unveils Keith Haring Inspired Mobile Health Center: Gothamist

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(Courtesy of Planned Parenthood)

On Tuesday, a unique collaboration made its debut in the streets of New York in the form of a hybrid public art piece-wellness resource. Planned Parenthood of New York partnered with the Keith Haring Foundation to launch a new vehicle for their Project Street Beat Mobile Health Center project, which is a traveling health clinic designed to provide access to New Yorkers struggling with homelessness and other health and safety concerns. “We know many New Yorkers, especially LGBTQ communities, communities of color, and marginalized New Yorkers such as those experiencing homelessness, lack access. This brings care to New Yorkers, to meet them where they are,” said Laura McQuade, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of New York City.

For the past 30 years, Project Street Beat has traveled around central Brooklyn, Upper Manhattan, and the South Bronx to bring necessary (and confidential) health care services to people who might not otherwise be inclined to visit a clinic on their own. The program also recently expanded its traveling radius to Jackson Heights, Queens and the St. George area of Staten Island. “For the past 30 years we’ve built a real presence in communities in the South Bronx and upper Manhattan through strategic partnerships, [and] we’ve expanded that into Queens and Staten Island,” Marcella Tillett, Vice President at Project Street Beat, told Gothamist.

The traveling clinic is outfitted with two soundproof counseling rooms and a large exam room, a wheelchair lift, and six Planned Parenthood staff members. “We typically have two people stationed outside the vehicle engaging with community members,” Tillett told us, adding that they give out information and practical things like deodorant and condoms. “We want them to know that ‘we’re here for you, we see you.’ They may not engage with us today… but we just want to start to build that rapport.” Beyond these staff members, there are also three nurse practitioners providing assistance in the clinic.

While Project Street Beat was created to offer HIV prevention and drug overdose risk reduction to at-risk teenagers and adults, this new mobile medical unit offers a wide variety of care, from STI testing, to mental health counseling, to health insurance enrollment, and general gynecological assistance like birth control insertion. Also, every Planned Parenthood staff member working in the clinic is trained to administer Narcan and assist with trauma surrounding domestic violence.

When New Yorkers visit the walk-in clinic, they first meet with an enrollment specialist to discuss their medical background and health insurance. If a patient cannot afford insurance or legally cannot apply, the clinic provides their services at no cost, thanks to public and private grant support. “That is very atypical, that kind of personal touch,” notes Tillett.

The large bus is decorated in a mural of blue and pink characters, done in Haring’s quintessential, boldly-outlined style. In 1990, Haring died of complications from AIDS, so the Keith Haring Foundation’s partnership with Project Street Beat and Planned Parenthood is fitting. “By placing Haring’s ebullient imagery on Project Street Beat’s mobile health center…[we have created] a safe and inviting space to all who seek support for sexual health, care, and guidance,” said Julia Gruen, Executive Director, Keith Haring Foundation. In 2016, Planned Parenthood received a $1,160,000 grant from the Foundation for this collaborative healthcare effort. Additionally, Project Street Beat got funding from New York City Council to update the organization’s old mobile center with this newly-unveiled one.

Plans are underway to get two more mobile clinics out in the streets later on this year. “We’ve ordered two additional mobile health centers and we are going to be working on getting those built…[we’re able to] design them ourselves,” says Tillett. “We definitely see the need and we also see the community response to this model of service delivery.” The traveling wellness truck operates on a flexible schedule of eight shifts a week, and between one or two locations a day. In the spring, summer, and fall, when more people are outside, they work over the weekend more frequently.

You can find out more about the program and where vehicles are located here.





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