Mobile Health Clinic offers free care in local communities


In this article:

  • Each year, the Mobile Health Clinic’s three units care for thousands of previously underserved patients in Santa Rosa, Windsor, Cloverdale and Sonoma communities.

  • All staff on the units are fluent in English and Spanish, which is one step toward bridging an important gap in health equity and living out the Providence mission of know me, care for me, ease my way.

  • Hear from several patients who finally felt seen and heard — and got treatments that changed their lives, thanks to the dedicated and caring staff on the mobile clinic.

Since 1991, Providence Mobile Health Clinic has helped bridge health equity gaps by providing free medical care to individuals who are uninsured, undocumented or unhoused. Often these people felt invisible until they met the caring staff at the Mobile Health Clinic.

The medical clinic fleet — now three vehicles strong — sees nearly 4,000 patients each year in Santa Rosa, Windsor, Cloverdale and Sonoma, California. They provide more than 1,000 blood pressure and blood sugar screenings every year, and many of these patients wouldn’t otherwise seek care.

Medical care, wherever it’s needed

“Over the last 30 years, we’ve been going out providing free medical care and seeing anything from acute problems to chronic problems,” explains Jennifer Eid-Ammons, a nurse practitioner and manager of the Mobile Health Clinic. “We see patients whether or not they have insurance, or maybe they are homeless or living in a shelter. We’re able to provide that care right then and there.”

A typical day at the Mobile Health Clinic starts early in the morning for the staff.

“When I arrive at the site, I make sure that everything is ready to provide the best patient care possible,” says Jessica Quintal Alvarez, a medical assistant for the mobile unit. “One of the cool things we do is meet them where they’re at: in the day-labor center, in the shelter, in the encampment, in the bushes, under the overpass. We go to them.”

“We’re kind of a one-stop shop,” Jessica says, explaining they see people with everything from the common cold and flu to COVID and rashes, as well as those who need sports physicals.

Many of their patients wouldn’t otherwise seek treatment — or would end up in an emergency department — for common issues that have a relatively simple treatment.

“Twenty to 30% of the people we see are ER preventions. We’re like the troopers that go out and provide care to keep people out of the emergency room,” Jennifer explains.

Free health care when it’s needed most

One patient, Luis, injured his knee on the job and could no longer work. Surgery was scheduled, but his blood pressure was too high in the days leading up to surgery, so it had to be cancelled. 

“The insurance doesn’t cover that part of it; they cover only the injury,” says Luis, who was then fired because he couldn’t return to work. “They cut all my benefits. I didn’t have any place to go.”

Thanks to the free services at the Mobile Health Clinic, Luis got the treatment he needed to lower his blood pressure.

“Wow, this is amazing,” Luis says. “When I went to the mobile clinic, they provided everything and took care of me. Now I’m ready for this operation, and I’m just waiting for a rescheduling.”

All the clinic staff on the mobile unit speak Spanish and English. “I feel that being bilingual has been a huge asset in health care, and it makes the patients feel a lot more comfortable,” Jessica says.

A Spanish-speaking patient, Anabel, recalls her positive experience, which has been translated here. “My health before coming to this clinic was very bad. I had a tumor in my foot. They checked me, got me an ultrasound and sent me to a foot specialist. Then they helped me find a place where I could get surgery,” she says. “I had stopped working because of the pain. Now I can work full eight-hour shifts. Now I’m happy, I’m working and happy to be part of the mobile clinics.”

Chelene Lopez has been a community health worker for more than 30 years. “I would not change one thing that I do. Ever. I really, really love what I do,” she says of her work at the Mobile Health Clinic. “Every day I just treat people with respect and treat them like I want to be treated.”

Jessica agrees. “The mobile clinic really embodies the mission of Providence to know me, care for me, ease my way. We live out the mission every day in the work we do,” she says.

The importance of being seen

“The first time I was seen, they provided me with dignity and respect, and that’s the main thing that I remember the most about the Mobile Health Clinic. There’s no judgment,” recalls Elizabeth, a patient. “They don’t judge you for what you’re being seen for and what your problems may be. That made me feel like a person. Because when you’re homeless, the first thing that goes out the window is your dignity, and you don’t feel like a person. People don’t treat you like a person; they see you wandering the streets. The Mobile Health Clinic made me feel like I was a person and I deserve to have better health, that I was worth it.”

Jessica can relate to Elizabeth’s current situation in a very personal way. “For a lot of years during my life, I was homeless, and I had a drug problem,” Jessica admits. “Now that I’m on the other side of that, I’m able to meet people where they are and really relate with them because I have that lived experience. Being homeless can be a shameful thing. So if I can do whatever I can do to help somebody, I’m going to do that. Seeing them for who they are, not for what they’ve done or where they’ve been or where they’re going.”

The way Elizabeth is treated by the caring staff on the unit has made a huge impact on her life.

“The nurses on the mobile clinic are my favorite because they will just get to know you and love you no matter what,” she says, remembering hearing someone say, “Hi, Liz!” one day as she was walking down the street.

“It was the women in the mobile clinic waving to me. And I think, ‘How do you see me?’” Elizabeth recalls. “They see you. That’s what it is: they see you, and they know you. And that’s what makes these women so special.”

Find a doctor

Learn more about the Mobile Health Clinic and download a schedule of location visits and times, or call us at 707-547-4612. If you’re looking for a primary care provider, you can search our provider directory for one who’s right for you.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.