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Health Care

Project SchoolCare
This collaborative health effort in San Francisco is the nation's first to bring mobile health services to parochial schools.

Mercy Mobile
What began as a few volunteers providing foot care for Atlanta's homeless has grown to become a national model for homeless health services.

Mercy Health Center
This Oklahoma City center is a prime example of how hospitals can use their resources to build a healthier community.

Project SchoolCare, San Francisco


  • St. Mary's Medical Center, a Mercy-sponsored institution, a division of Catholic Healthcare West
  • The Archdiocese of San Francisco Department of Catholic Schools
  • The University of San Francisco, a Jesuit, co-educational university
  • Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco

Photo Credit: Mercy Mobile Health Care Nearly half of the single mothers with young children in San Francisco are poor. And 49 percent of the kids in those households don't receive the immunizations they need to fend off dreaded diseases. More than 54,000 of these children lack health insurance and access to regular health care. Girls as young as 12 have sexually transmitted diseases at a rate 12 times the state average.

Project SchoolCare is the first collaborative health effort of its kind in the US. This mobile health delivery system provides regularly scheduled, on-site physical, mental and dental health care to elementary and secondary school students.

Established in 1997, Project SchoolCare serves 1200 students within five inner-city parochial schools. The van rotates among the schools, spending a full day at each location. The SchoolCare Health Team - sponsored by St. Mary's Medical Center, the University of San Francisco and Catholic Charities - includes a medical director, nurse practitioner, medical residents, a case manager, psychologist, nursing students, and graduate psychology students. The team members complete physical and mental health assessments, record health care histories and conduct physical exams and nutritional assessments. They also identify dental, vision and hearing deficiencies and test for learning disabilities.

The diocesan Department of Catholic Schools, which operates 79 elementary and secondary schools with enrollment of more than 28,000 students, initiated Project SchoolCare. Eventually, Project SchoolCare aims to extend services to students' families and other Catholic Charities' clients in the neighborhoods. It will link families with appropriate services and be a model for Project SchoolCare initiatives in the 200 dioceses and Catholic private school system nationwide.

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Mercy Mobile, Atlanta, GA

The Partners:

  • St. Joseph's Mercy Care Services
  • Metro area churches and nonprofit organizations
  • Public and private health care providers
  • Colleges and universities

Photo Credit:  Mercy Mobile Health CareDuring the short ride from the Atlanta airport rental car drop to the terminal, the shuttle bus driver asked her only passenger what she was doing in town. When the passenger replied she had come on business for Mercy Mobile Health Care, the bus driver braked in surprise. Mercy Mobile had saved her life.

Mercy Mobile started as a handful of volunteers from St. Joseph's Mercy Care Services, providing foot care and other urgent treatment to the homeless at shelters in downtown Atlanta. The service quickly expanded. Today, with a staff of 97, a volunteer corps of 356 and over 20 institutional partners, Mercy Mobile is a nationally recognized and award winning mobile clinic that serves 26 sites in two primary areas of Atlanta.

Mercy Mobile's three mobile clinics travel to those in greatest need. The vans are a cost effective way to serve people who rely primarily on hospital emergency rooms for care. Each of the 26 mobile sites has a primary sponsor - most often a church, but also community associations, health departments and neighborhood organizations.

Many other institutions donate services - a midwife, a pediatric nurse, HIV case management, substance abuse recovery, a nutritionist - and provide free acute care when needed. In exchange, Mercy Mobile staff serve on community-wide coalitions and planning councils, ensuring that a health care perspective is voiced for those who are traditionally underserved.

Mercy Mobile services are designed to break down the barriers that keep the poor and uninsured from accessing primary health care. Information is supplied in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Clinics are virtually 100 percent walk-in with wait times averaging less than 30 minutes. Doctors and nurses are on call 24 hours a day. At some sites, childcare is available. Seventy percent of the paid and volunteer staff is culturally and racially diverse. Outreach staff often bring to their work insight derived from personal experience with abuse or substance dependence.

The shuttle bus driver was at a shelter when she heard about the Mercy Mobile van, out of work, out of money and separated from her children. A Sister of Mercy who helped staff the shelter took her to the van and stayed with her for hours. "She was there for me when I needed her," the driver said. "Tell her I still keep the prayer she gave me. Tell her I'm employed; I have my own house; I have my children. I am so grateful."

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Mercy Health Center, Oklahoma City, OK

The Mercy Health Center in Oklahoma City is an active partner in a broad constellation of community-based initiatives - and a prime example of how hospitals can use their resources to help to build a healthier community.

Mercy Health Center helped launch the Cottonwood Clinic, under the direction of Dr. James Dixson, a local physician. At the clinic, poor and uninsured families from throughout the metropolitan area receive first rate medical services at no charge. The clinic is staffed completely by volunteer physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other support professionals.

Mercy Health Center professionals also volunteer at another free clinic -- the St. Charles Clinic. Located in a white frame house next to St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the clinic serves people who otherwise couldn't afford even basic medical care. Funding comes from the St. Charles Borromeo and from the Catherine McAuley Community Trust.

The Domestic Violence program, sponsored by the Mercy Bridges division of Mercy Health Center, helps teens in abusive dating relationships. It's estimated that at least one in four teens has been involved in such a relationship - but many do not recognize the signs of abuse until serious emotional or physical harm is done. The Domestic Violence program is promoted through the local school system. Special cards telling where to get help have been placed in restrooms of popular local businesses, restaurants and other teen spots.

Holy Family Home provides a safe and loving environment for pregnant unwed teens until their babies are three months old. The teens learn parenting skills and other proficiencies to improve their prospects in the job market. The home is operated by Catholic Charities of the Oklahoma City Diocese, with support from Mercy Health Center.

When the school day is over, at-risk children in Oklahoma City can go to Kids' Café to do their homework, play with friends and get a nutritious meal. Activities include arts and crafts, tutoring, talent shows and recreation. More than 250 children go to the 11 Kids' Cafés in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Mercy Bridges has played a key role in setting up some of the sites and keeping the program active.

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