It’s not every day that Robert Kraft equates someone to the five-time Super Bowl champion quarterback of the New England Patriots. But on Jan. 9, the team’s owner did just that, dubbing The Kraft Center for Community Health’s executive director Elsie Taveras, MD, as “the center’s Tom Brady.”

Taveras confidently quarterbacked the launch of a new mobile health initiative – the first of its kind in New England – during a special ceremony on City Hall Plaza. She invited attendees to take a closer look at CareZONE, the mobile health van which has been transformed into an exam room outfitted with cabinets for supply storage, a sink, counter space, a television monitor and an exam chair.

The new community outreach program, spearheaded by The Kraft Center for Community Health at the MGH, seeks to better engage with individuals struggling with addition and complex health conditions who are not well connected to health care services.

The mobile van will provide rapid access to treatment and harm reduction services for people with substance use disorders. It will provide primary and preventative care to underserved populations and those who might not be comfortable receiving addiction care from a traditional health care facility. Patients will have access to screenings for tuberculosis, cancer and sexually transmitted infections, and also receive immunizations and treatment for chronic disease management, including HIV. The van will be stationed in Dudley Square and the West End where individuals who may be disconnected from traditional addiction resources can find help.

“Building on the successful first five years of the Kraft Center and faced with many emerging and continued challenges to community health, Mr. Kraft challenged us to go beyond the doors of our health centers and develop ‘boots on the ground” frontline services to better meet the needs of marginalized populations. With this CareZONE program we hope to build out the continuum of addiction care and increase access to treatment and engagement in recovery,’ said Taveras.

With an average of six people dying every day in Massachusetts from an opioid overdose, this new program aims to offer another avenue of care.

“Every pathway to recovery seems unorthodox at first, until it works,” said Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. “We have a long way to go, and we do not have all the answers, but we are providing one more pathway to recovery from this terrible disease.”

The Kraft Center for Community Health at MGH was established by Kraft and his family in 2011 with the goal of expanding access to high quality care in new and innovative ways. For the past year, Taveras and The Kraft Center – who partnered with the GE Foundation, Ford Motor Company, the Hearst Group, Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) and the Boston Public Health Commission – have been working to make the mobile van a reality.

The CareZONE van will be staffed with members from the BHCHP medical group and the AHOPE harm reduction team, which is the Boston Public Health Commission’s harm reduction and needle exchange program.

“We see tremendous value in being in the community, building engagement and trust, and partnering with clinical and public health practitioners to offer a path to recovery and not give up on people,” Taveras said.


Read more articles from the 01/12/18 Hotline issue.