new haven

Amid Pandemic, Community Health Care Van Helps Infants

NBC Universal, Inc.

Since 1993 the New Haven Community Health van has helped in the AIDS crisis, poverty, substance abuse, and now during a pandemic.

“We kind of redesigned the van quickly, put up screens,” said Sharon Joslin, a family nurse practitioner from the Yale School of Medicine. She’s worked onboard the van for nearly nine years.

Over the years, she’s treated adults in substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling and even needle exchanges. Now Joslin is checking in on infants.

“We only allow one patient -- mother and her baby – to come in, and then we clean after every visit so she comes into a totally clean space, with just one mom and baby at a time,” said Joslin. “It’s wonderfully exciting and important. We cannot weigh a baby over the phone, we can’t take a look, we can’t see how the baby’s acting and nursing with the mother.”

The space became too small to keep safe with COVID-19 spreading. The repurposed van helps new moms who usually go to a clinic. It gives them a way to avoid possible exposure to COVID-19 by cutting out a trip to highly populated areas with an infant. For some, that trip would include public transportation.

The van parks in Fair Haven across from Criscuolo Park, and down on Legion Avenue in the parking lot near Ella T. Grasso Boulevard. It started Monday and has already seen more than a dozen patients.

“I just got the numbers, we saw 14 babies,” said Joslin.

The adults across New Haven that depended on the van are now going to clinics for their healthcare.

“We do testing, we do treatment we do vaccinations,” said Joslin.

The van is out and about Monday through Friday. New parents can make an appointment through their regular clinic. Joslin says partners are the Fair Haven Clinic, Cornell Scott-Hill, and the Women’s Center at Yale New Haven Health.

“We try to help them do basically just baby checks mother’s blood pressure to make sure they’re okay and then link them back to their original services.”

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