Worcester Telegram & Gazette, February 19, 2016
WORCESTER – There are plenty of reasons why kids don’t receive proper health and dental care, and they are perhaps more complex than you think.
Aside from the obvious logistics associated with affordability and payment, there are language barriers, lack of education where proper care is concerned and the difficulties in scheduling appointments when both parents work or a single parent is the child’s sole caretaker.
But when amazing care arrives on wheels, there is no reason not to jump on board. The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, which works in partnership with UMass Memorial Health Care, is “piloted” by a passionate and caring staff – many of whom have been with the mobile since its inception in 2000.
“It’s an incredibly dedicated team,” said Karen McEachern, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern New England Inc., adding that they strive every single day to make families’ experience with the care mobile “warm and friendly.”
Like other efforts of the Ronald McDonald House organization, the care mobile’s creation was based on a regional assessment where Worcester was determined to have a great need for this type of care.
The Care Mobile each week visits various locations throughout the city, including schools, churches, shelters and food pantries.
Doctors, nurse practitioners and dental hygienists aboard the 40-foot vehicle, which boasts two pop-outs for office space much like an RV, offer medical services ranging from immunizations and well-child physicals to lab tests and blood-pressure testing for both kids and parents.
Dental services, which have proved to be quite critical in certain transient populations where dental care is not a standard in their culture, include fluoride treatments, sealants, dental cleanings and dental screenings.
Children who need more specialized treatment, whether medical or dental, receive help from the staff getting connected with all of the resources available to them through not only UMass Memorial but also through any human service agencies or nonprofits in the area.
While turning 15 years old is certainly a big deal, the celebration has been understated, as the crew focuses instead on continuing to provide a high level of mobile care to the children of Worcester.
“Back when we were starting up, we always thought we’d expand and maybe branch out to other areas around this time,” said Ms. McEachern. “But what we have found is that Worcester is such a transient population that there are always new kids coming in that need our services. So we have continued to serve the city of Worcester.”
But the big celebration came in 2013 when the group was able to purchase a new and improved vehicle. For a care program that exists entirely on wheels, a souped-up new “office” is worth getting a little excited about.
“The weather and road conditions in this area can be pretty harsh and our vehicle ages maybe quicker than those in other parts of the country,” said Ms. McEachern, “so this new mobile was really a big deal for us.”
Financial support for the program is through a combination of grants, sponsors, product donations and clinical partnerships, along with some good old-fashioned fundraising.
“We go down every avenue we can to keep on the road,” she said.
To donate to the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program, call (781) 733-7234.
Compiled by Correspondent Amanda Roberge
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