NORWALK, Conn. – Beginning next week, Norwalk’s homeless and public housing residents will have an opportunity to receive medical, dental and mental health care in their own neighborhoods.
The Norwalk Community Health Center unveiled a $525,000 customized coach bus Thursday that will travel to the Open Door Shelter on Merritt Street and the Washington Village housing complex on Water Street to administer health care services.
The Health on Wheels, or HOW bus was purchased with a federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. But the impetus for the program started two years ago in a discussion between health center CEO Larry Cross and Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia on how to provide health care to some of the city’s underserved residents.
“This bus will serve 1,000 to 2,000 people annually,” Cross said during the unveiling ceremony. In addition to health and dental care, the bus will also offer mental health and substance abuse counseling.
The bus will not only help those who may be reluctant to seek health care but also those who are physically unable to make it to the center, located on Connecticut Avenue in the former Seaman’s Furniture building, said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who helped to secure the federal grant.
“It’s going to be mobile, but more importantly, it’s going to be motivated,” Blumenthal said of the team of nine who will provide the services.
The bus will be stationed at the Open Door Shelter on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and at Washington Village on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The bus will add stops at Roodner Court and other public housing complexes later this year, Cross said.
“The other benefit of this bus is that it’s going to take a big load off of Norwalk Hospital,” Moccia said. “The team will be able to develop relationships with many of these patients, which will be a tremendous help.”