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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana mobile outreach program delivers its 2,000th vaccination

Oct. 05, 2015

An ounce of prevention goes a long way. Often in Montana, it takes traveling a long way to deliver that ounce of prevention.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana Care Van has been doing just that, trekking thousands of miles across the state to help provide vaccinations to Montanans. The program hit an important milestone last week, delivering its 2,000th vaccination at a clinic in Columbus on October 2.

It reached that total more than a year ahead of the Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance (CSI) stipulation that required the program help provide that many immunizations by the end of 2016. The requirement was part of the approved acquisition of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana by Health Care Service Corporation, which was completed in August of 2013.

Hitting that goal as quickly as the program did was a special moment for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana and the Care Van program.

"The Care Van is an important part of our community outreach and our commitment to invest in the health and wellness of all Montana communities," said John Doran, director of public relations. "It is also a perfect example of how a private-public partnership can leverage each other’s strengths to exceed expectations."

Launched in September of 2014, Care Van's primary mission is to help raise immunization rates and provide important health information in Montana, with a focus on rural and underserved areas. A community partnership and outreach program, the service is provided at little or no cost to partner agencies.

Heading into its second year, the program is growing quickly. Care Van is on pace to do more events by the beginning of December than it did in its entire first year. That includes several clinics to help students meet the new back-to-school immunization requirements passed during the 2015 Montana Legislature.

"Vaccines are the cornerstone of public health" Care Van administrator Bryan Haines said. "The Care Van program provides county health departments and other providers a tool to help raise immunization rates and create a healthier Montana."

The centerpiece of the program is the 23-foot van, a mobile clinic equipped with everything needed to provide basic health care. The van has been a valuable tool to county health departments and other partners across the state. To date the Care Van has teamed with 17 counties on a variety of events, including back-to-school immunization clinics, flu shot events and wellness fairs.

Those events haven’t been confined to just brick and mortar health departments. The Care Van’s mobility has allowed it to provide immunizations in parking lots, Hutterite colonies and other rural settings.

That flexibility has been a key element to the program’s partners.

"The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Care Van has helped the Toole County Health Department care for our underserved populations, such as children, adults, and senior citizens," said Kristi Aklestad, the director of the Toole County Health Department. "Because it is a mobile clinic, it assists us in reducing health disparities in our rural communities by providing access to life-saving immunizations in the communities they live in.

"As a result, this partnership has enabled us to utilize our county resources efficiently while providing more access and care to our residents; making our communities healthier one immunization at a time."

The Care Van program facilitates immunization clinics and helps partners accomplish the event goals. Ultimately, it is a team effort where Care Van provides resources and support, and partners provide service.

For more information or to set up a Care Van event, please contact Bryan Haines at 406-437-6198 or bryan_haines@bcbsmt.com.

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