MaineHealth Launches Mobile Health Unit in Portland

June 14, 2024

The city of Portland provided a two-year, $500,000 American Rescue Plan Act grant to fund the MaineHealth Preble Street Learning Collaborative’s outreach van, focused on reaching patients with untreated psychiatric and substance use disorders.

Portland, Maine – The MaineHealth Preble Street Learning Collaborative (MHPSLC) is launching a mobile health unit to provide low-barrier, on-demand treatment for unhoused patients with psychiatric and substance use disorders in greater Portland.

The Community Outreach Network Navigation Evidence-based Care and Treatment (CONNECT) Outreach Van is being funded through a two-year, $500,000 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant from the city of Portland, along with a two-year, $40,000 grant from the Doree Taylor Foundation and a one-year, $10,000 grant from the Hudson Foundation.

The goal of the CONNECT Outreach Van is to provide a safe and welcoming space for people experiencing homelessness to receive comprehensive psychiatric care. The traveling psychiatric nurse practitioner will be equipped to outreach and engage unhoused patients, treat psychiatric and substance use disorders, including opioid use disorder, and provide harm reduction supplies and items to meet basic needs, such as toiletries, handwarmers, socks and underwear. The hope is that over time, unhoused patients will engage in outpatient services and receive the kind of preventive care that reduces the need for visits to the emergency department and leads to a better quality of life.

“We want to remove the barriers that cause our community members to delay needed care, and the CONNECT Outreach Van is an important tool to meet patients where they are, said Britt Crewse, president of MaineHealth’s Southern Region. “We cannot thank the city of Portland enough for supporting this work and our MaineHealth vision of working together so our communities are the healthiest in America.

Data collected through the Mobile Health Map at Harvard Medical School suggests that mobile clinics across the country reduce unnecessary emergency room visits and save communities an average of $20 for every dollar invested in such programs. MHPSLC is hoping to engage about 500 individual patients in its first year, referring many to community-based social and medical services to support their long-term needs.

“I’m so thankful that the City was able to support the funding of this mobile health unit with the use of ARPA funds as it will greatly complement and work in tandem with the City’s Mobile Medical Outreach (MMO) team,” said Portland Mayor Mark Dion. “The MMO team addresses the physical medical needs of the population we serve, but our team is not trained to provide psychological care, which is a huge component of the recovery process. The CONNECT service will help fill the void between the work of the MMO Team, and the Portland Police Behavioral Health team, by providing an opportunity to access psychological care in non-crisis settings by choice. We look forward to having another mobile unit addressing the needs of community members, particularly with their expertise in mental health and substance use disorder treatment.”

The CONNECT Outreach Van is a natural extension of the services currently provided by MHPSLC, a partnership between MaineHealth and Preble Street to address the unmet healthcare needs of those experiencing homelessness through education and outreach. MHPSLC provides walk-in medical care, treatment for opioid use disorder and medical outreach case management in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood. It also provides training opportunities for medical students, residents and fellows from MaineHealth Maine Medical Center Portland, along with aspiring social work, psychiatric, dental, pharmacy and nursing professionals.

“People experiencing homelessness have unique and complex needs when it comes to accessing healthcare,” said Malia Haddock, a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and the lead clinician for MHPSLC’s CONNECT program. “To truly meet these needs, systems of care must be trauma-informed, relationship-focused and flexible. The CONNECT Outreach Van increases our capacity to meet these needs throughout the city and communicates to unhoused patients that they are seen, heard and valued.”

Starting July 1, the CONNECT Van will travel throughout greater Portland five days a week, incorporating regular stops and allowing patients easy access to services. The van will also have flexibility built into its schedule to allow for emergent patient care needs.


About MaineHealth

MaineHealth is a not-for-profit, integrated health system whose vision is, “Working together so our communities are the healthiest in America,” and is committed to a mission of providing high-quality affordable care, educating tomorrow's caregivers and researching better ways to provide care. MaineHealth includes a Level 1 trauma medical center, eight additional licensed hospitals, comprehensive pediatric care services, an extensive behavioral health care network, diagnostic services as well as home health, hospice and senior care services. With more than 2,000 employed providers and approximately 23,000 care team members, MaineHealth provides preventive care, diagnosis and treatment to 1.1 million residents in Maine and New Hampshire. MaineHealth hospitals include MaineHealth Behavioral Health at Spring Harbor in Westbrook, MaineHealth Franklin Hospital in Farmington, MaineHealth Lincoln Hospital in Damariscotta, MaineHealth Maine Medical Center in Portland, Biddeford and Sanford, MaineHealth Memorial Hospital in North Conway, N.H., MaineHealth Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, MaineHealth Pen Bay Hospital in Rockport, MaineHealth Stephens Hospital in Norway and MaineHealth Waldo Hospital in Belfast. MaineHealth also includes the MaineHealth Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland, MaineHealth Care at Home in Saco, the MaineHealth Institute for Research in Scarborough, the MaineHealth Medical Group and MaineHealth NorDx in Scarborough. MaineHealth affiliates include Maine General Health in Augusta and Waterville and St. Mary's Heal System in Lewiston. It is also a significant stakeholder in the MaineHealth Accountable Care Organization in Portland and a joint venture partner in the New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Portland.