Care Van rolls into 2016 with increasing momentum

Care Van rolls into 2016 with increasing momentum

The Care Van is on a roll, and it has nothing to do with Montana’s recently increased speed limit to 80 miles per hour.

After reaching an important milestone of 2,000 vaccinations early this fall, that number has more than doubled in the short time since and heads into 2016 with incredible momentum. For more than a year now, the Care Van has been trekking thousands of miles across the country’s fourth-largest state to help provide vaccinations to more than 4,000 Montanans.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana program hit an important milestone October 2, delivering its 2,000th vaccination at a clinic in Columbus. 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.

The Care Van reached its 2,000th shot at a flu shot clinic at Columbus Elementary school on October 2. A big thank you goes out to Columbus Elementary School principal Marlene Deis and Stillwater Billings Clinic nurse Heidi Lundin for putting on the event.

Hitting that goal as quickly as the program did was a special moment for the BCBSMT 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.

“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 nearly 20 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