Mo­bile heal­ing clinic planned for Mil­wau­kee neigh­bor­hoods

Care Mo­bile could be deployed next year

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Milwaukee Wisconsin - John Schmid

Search­ing for ways to treat men­tal ill­ness and other health af­flic­tions within its high-trauma, high-poverty com­mu­ni­ties, Mil­wau­kee is turn­ing to an idea that’s been tested in de­vel­op­ing world na­tions such as Indonesia and Thai­land:

A mo­bile heal­ing clinic.

As soon as next year, a 40-foot-long, half-mil­lion-dol­lar ve­hi­cle cus­tom­ized with ex­am­i­na­tion rooms and a re­cep­tion area could be park­ing it­self in city neigh­bor­hoods that oth­er­wise are de­void of men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als, so­cial workers and child psy­chol­o­gists.

The pro­posal emerged Wed­nes­day at a monthly meeting of clinics, non­prof­its, uni­ver­si­ties, ther­a­pists and so­cial wel­fare agen­cies, which col­lec­tively want to tackle the epi­demic of psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma that rav­ages Mil­wau­kee and cities like it. Called SWIM — Scal­ing Well­ness in Mil­wau­kee — the coali­tion re­cently at­tracted Ron­ald McDon­ald House Char­i­ties as one of its new­est mem­bers.

McDon­ald House Char­i­ties, it turns out, has 357 af­fil­i­ates around the world and 52 of them al­ready op­er­ate mo­bile units — al­though not yet the Mil­wau­kee branch. The char­ity’s global head­quar­ters wants to fund ad­di­tional “care mo­biles“in com­mu­ni­ties that can show a need.

“Our chap­ter, which never had a care mo­bile, is very ex­cited to be a part of SWIM,” Ann Petrie, pres­i­dent of the Mil­wau­kee RMHC, told Wed­nes­day’s SWIM meeting.

Ex­ist­ing RMHC mo­bile clinics of­fer ser­vices that are spe­cific to lo­cal needs, such as pe­di­atric can­cer treat­ment in Poland and eye care in Thai­land. Mo­bile clinics also op­er­ate in Ar­gentina and Latvia as well as New Zealand, Aus­tralia, Canada and the United States, ac­cord­ing to the Mil­wau­kee af­fil­i­ate.

Mil­wau­kee peren­ni­ally ranks among the na­tion’s most im­pov­er­ished cities. In a se­ries pub­lished last year, the Jour­nal Sen­tinel ex­plored en­tire neigh­bor­hoods where ex­po­sure to trau­matic lev-

els of gun­fire, vi­o­lence, abuse and ne­glect are an ev­ery­day ex­pe­ri­ence, cre­at­ing a ci­ty­wide epi­demic of psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma.

Trauma ex­pe­ri­ences in child­hood, in turn, have been iden­ti­fied as the lat­er­life cause of de­pres­sion, ad­dic­tion, un­em­ploy­ment, im­pris­on­ment and even sui­cide and home­less­ness.

SWIM late last month hosted a three-day con­fer­ence fo­cused on heal­ing those who carry the in­vis­i­ble wounds of neu­ro­log­i­cal trauma. The event at­tracted 1,400 at­ten­dees from 14 states to hear some of the na­tion’s lead­ing trauma-re­spon­sive prac­ti­tion­ers and neu­ro­sci­en­tists.

SWIM meet­ings op­er­ate like town hall meet­ings where mem­bers brain­storm on strate­gies to de­ploy the re­gion’s ex­ist­ing sta­ble of ther­a­pists, coun­selors and so­cial ser­vices as strate­gi­cally as pos­si­ble.

Mar­quette Univer­sity Pres­i­dent Mike Lovell, who co-founded SWIM and leads each of the monthly meet­ings, said talks are un­der­way with po­ten­tial clin­i­cal ser­vice providers that can fur­nish staffers in the mo­bile clinic.

For months, the all-vol­un­teer SWIM col­lec­tive has been map­ping the city’s neigh­bor­hoods to iden­tify com­mu­ni­ties where so­cial agen­cies and men­tal health clinics al­ready ex­ist — and which en­claves have the least ac­cess to treat­ment.

One of the over­rid­ing SWIM ob­jec­tives is to fill in the gaps in the city’s

Mil­wau­kee peren­ni­ally ranks among the na­tion’s most im­pov­er­ished cities. In a se­ries pub­lished last year, the Jour­nal Sen­tinel ex­plored en­tire neigh­bor­hoods where ex­po­sure to trau­matic lev­els of gun­fire, vi­o­lence, abuse and ne­glect are an ev­ery­day ex­pe­ri­ence, cre­at­ing a ci­ty­wide epi­demic of psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma.

“as­set map.” That’s where the mo­bile clinic fits in. The phi­lan­thropy’s global head­quar­ters, lo­cated in Chicago near its par­ent-com­pany cor­po­rate flag­ship, funds up to six new care mo­biles each year, each cost­ing about $500,000, which is enough for two pa­tient ex­am­i­na­tion rooms, a lab­o­ra­tory, and re­cep­tion and med­i­cal records ar­eas.

Can­di­date cities need to demon­strate a clear need for mo­bile re­sources, which shouldn’t be a prob­lem in Mil­wau­kee.

Jon Lehrmann, chair of psy­chi­a­try and be­hav­ioral medicine at the Med­i­cal Col­lege of Wis­con­sin and ac­tive SWIM mem­ber, ex­pects the pro­posed Mil­wau­kee mo­bile clinic to in­clude men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als, trauma-trained so­cial workers, child psy­chol­o­gists as well as pri­mary care and pos­si­bly even pre­na­tal ser­vices.

To build trust, staffers on the unit would match the eth­nic­i­ties in the com­mu­ni­ties it serves. It would co­or­di­nate with schools, churches or even farm­ers mar­kets to make sure it gains ac­cep­tance.

“It’s not just driv­ing through a neigh­bor­hood like an ice cream truck,” Petrie said.

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