It was the food, rather than the message, that attracted young people to the Green Cross bus when it first started appearing around Melbourne’s western suburbs.
The hot sausages in bread, fresh sandwiches and fruit are still a great drawcard, but now young people, who might not have been to a mainstream health services for a long time, are coming to the bus for health care. cohealth’s Green Cross bus team have seen more and more young people with drug and alcohol issues presenting for advice, referrals and care for a range of health problems.
The Green Cross bus, a partnership with Green Cross Project Inc, is part of cohealth’s Mobile Health Access Point Program (MhAP). In May 2017 the bus hit the road, parking at various locations around Wyndham, Melton and Brimbank, taking health care to those who need it.
Chris Platt, Program Manager of cohealth’s Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services, said the Green Cross bus team was using hospitality and food to make initial connections with the young people. The team, comprising a nurse, alcohol and drug counsellor and two health workers, are all licensed to drive the bus and can each turn their hand at cooking.
Three days a week they pull up, pull out the barbecue and start cooking. “It’s a really effective way to engage with young people and develop their trust,” Chris said.
The bus is fully decked out for use as a mobile health clinic and services offered to the 12 to 25 year target group include:
- access point for Hepatitis C diagnosis and treatment
- clinical nursing service providing support around immediate and long term health issues
- brief interventions and counselling
- assistance with referrals to external agencies and
- counselling and support to families.
“We are pleased with the way the service is now being used. The first few weeks were about engaging with the communities in a range of ways to let them know the bus was coming. Then people started dropping by to see what it was all about and now we are seeing repeat clients coming back for care and health advice,” he said.
Chris hopes that the bus project will strengthen links between the communities and cohealth and encourage the young people to attend a mainstream health centre for any necessary ongoing care.