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In 1996, Seth Ammerman, MD, hit the road in an RV retrofitted to serve as a mobile adolescent health clinic. He was on a quest to deliver care to at-risk teens and young adults where they were—at school, at parks, and on the street.

Since that first outing 20 years ago, the donor-supported Teen Health Van has given more than 4,500 Bay Area homeless and uninsured youth access to comprehensive primary health care services, ranging from immunizations and physicals to family planning and mental health counseling. The care team, which includes a physician, nurse practitioner, medical assistant, social worker, and registered dietitian, focuses on each patient’s strengths rather than weaknesses, keeping them engaged and focused on improving their own health.

Thanks to the generous support of donors, all the Teen Health Van’s services, medications, and supplies are free of charge for patients. The program now serves 400 unique patients each year, about 70 percent of whom come back for repeat visits.

Last year, the program launched a brand-new, state-of-the-art mobile clinic equipped with two exam rooms, interactive technology, and access to specialists at Packard Children’s via live video chat. Ammerman, medical director of the program, estimates that each dollar spent on prevention and intervention through the Teen Van saves $10 in future medical costs.

“Please accept my deepest gratitude for your support for this program that provides a lifeline to so many,” says Ammerman. “It has been an eye opening experience and I have learned that you never give up on a kid. Thank you for not giving up either during our 20-year journey.”

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This article first appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Lucile Packard Children's News.