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San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group | Mobile Unit

San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group | Mobile Unit

Jennifer Silva; Chief Clinical Officer

As Chief Clinical Officer of the San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group, Jennifer Silva knows that for moms with substance use disorder, access to treatment when and where they need it, is everything. That’s why she is especially proud of the San Luis Valley (SLV) Mobile Health Units currently serving 112 clients.

“A lot of people think inpatient care is their first and only option,” Jennifer explained.  “But really, care always starts as an outpatient in some capacity. Our mobile units deliver care to all of our rural communities, creating important access points for Medication-Assisted Treatment as well as a consistent multi-disciplinary team that these moms come to trust and rely on.”

To travel across the San Luis Valley takes about two hours, and there is no public transportation. So, with the Behavioral Health Group’s main center in Alamosa, many moms couldn’t make the trip for care. The mobile health units do away with the transportation barrier.

The mobile health units resemble a large recreational vehicle on the outside and a typical health clinic on the inside. Each has three dedicated staff members: a licensed practical nurse, a licensed or certified addictions counselor, and a peer recovery coach . The teams offer services including peer support, brief intervention, prescriptions for medication-assisted treatment if needed and assistance with wraparound services

“Our team also helps moms with quick intervention when other things in life come up, like the need for rental assistance, heat assistance, primary care for other health concerns and more,” Jennifer explained. “We are very welcoming to these moms: We develop important relationships that have a big impact on their recovery, and we provide other support to them as needed, including diapers, hygiene kits, blankets, coats and activities for their kids to take home. We look at what other resources they may need and are making sure that our moms are getting their primary health care as well.”

The SLV Mobile Units are licensed as a primary health care site now, so they serve as  both medical and behavioral clinics. And, while it’s not a requirement, the SLV care teams are currently all female and most are moms themselves. “They have a heightened level of empathy when dealing with our clients,” Jennifer said. “I think that makes a lot of women feel more comfortable coming here.”

During the pandemic, the mobile unit’s Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) was especially crucial for those in recovery. MAT is the use of FDA-approved medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. “The Mobile Units saw more clients during Covid than ever before, possibly because accessing heroin was harder during the pandemic and people decided to seek treatment services.” Jennifer said.

If I could talk to providers, here’s what I’d want them to know:

I’d want them to know how important it is for moms to have an interdisciplinary team that can help give them immediate access to whatever they need. If a mom is facing eviction, that is going to be all she can focus on instead of her recovery. Wraparound services are as important as medicine or seeing a provider.  It’s not just dealing with the substance use disorder, it’s helping them deal with life – housing, relationships, finding a job, etc. If we simply give these moms a prescription and they leave, we aren’t really helping them to succeed. It all comes back to reconnection. With our mobile units, moms know they have a whole team cheering them on.