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Archbishop Blesses Mobile Health Unit to Assist Uninsured
Jack Sheedy
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Monday, September 6, 2010
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Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Conn., blesses a mobile health care clinic Aug. 23.
WATERBURY, Conn. (CNS)—Heavy rains drenched much of the state on the night before a new Malta House of Care mobile van was dedicated at Sacred Heart-Sagrado Corazon Parish in Waterbury. By the time Hartford Archbishop Henry J. Mansell blessed the new van, however, only a light drizzle fell.

"We do know that water and rain are the universal symbols of rebirth, renewal and regeneration," the archbishop said. "We speak of rebirth, renewal and regeneration with the establishment and blessing of the (new) Malta House of Care van."

Like the van that has operated in Hartford for nearly four years, the modified recreational vehicle—this one donated by past ConnectiCare president and CEO Mickey Herbert—is retrofitted to provide office and medical examination space for the primary medical care of people without health insurance. Services include free physical exams, diabetes and blood pressure checks, prescription drug management, medical tests and referrals to other physicians as needed.

Dr. Paul Kelly, medical director of Malta House of Care-Waterbury, told the gathering that he rarely had to ask for volunteers for the project. He said a nurse at St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury told him he had read about the project. "He walked up to me almost in a trot and was really juiced up about participating," Kelly said.

Attorney Peter G. Kelly, chairman of the Malta House of Care Foundation, said that since the first van became operational in Hartford in 2006, there have been more than 14,000 patient visits.

"There are more patients than you'll ever want to know about," he said. He thanked Archbishop Mansell for his commitment to the project, which is funded in part through donations to the Archbishop's Annual Appeal.

He also thanked the many volunteers, medical and administrative, who have offered their time and services. "Without them, it just won't happen," he said.

Archbishop Mansell said that more than 300,000 people in Connecticut have no primary health insurance. "Many of them who might go to hospitals are much more likely to go to the van," he said. He quoted St. Rose of Lima, whose feast day it was: "Where tribulations abound, graces abound all the more."

He continued, "I look around and I see the graces that address the tremendous tribulations that people are facing, and you are those graces."

He related the experience of a woman who came to the van in Hartford. "She had cancer," he said, and she would need surgery. She couldn't afford it. "And they said, 'Well, the surgery will be for free.'" The woman is now in recovery, he said.

Another young woman came in the winter with her infant who was just a few days old, he said. "She was asked her address. She said, 'My address is a car. I live in a car.' They couldn't believe it." They connected the woman with Catholic Charities, which took care of many of her needs, he said.

"These vans become something of an energizing experience," he said. "They enable so many other services that are available, at least from the Catholic Church. We are the largest provider of health care and social services, of education, after government, in the whole state," he said.

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