Teen Xpress offers teens free mobile health care

Program began at Orlando Health in 1997

ORLANDO, Fla. –  A young cancer survivor is journaling his battle with rhymes to support homeless teenagers.

"They was like, make a song about your life and the struggles, and how you can overcome it, and that's what came to mind," said the young man, who asked us to call him 'Paul.'

Because of his time as a homeless teenager, Paul did not want to give his real name but wanted to share how he found help. After fighting cancer in middle school, he was living out of a truck and had no access to follow-up care.

"They basically helped me fight the battle of homelessness that I had to fight," Paul said. 

Rita Vento is the program manager for Teen Xpress, a free mobile health clinic for uninsured or underinsured students that moves between five school parking lots in Orange County.

"We don't know what would have happened if he hadn't found us, we don't know where his life would've been," Vento said. 

Since the Orlando Health program began in 1997, over 15,000 uninsured teenagers have received medical or mental health care services.

"This is the only chance they have to get medical care or even counseling," Vento said.

Seventy-one percent of students who have sought help from Teen Xpress do not have a primary care provider. Case managers like Stewart Yon said he's seen teenagers with life-threatening conditions, who have not seen a doctor in years.

"We want to get them into care, make sure that they get a physical and then from there we want to connect them to systems of care," Yon said. 

The professional team on board the bus includes case managers in addition to a Registered Nurse Practitioner, mental health counselor, and dietician.

About the Author: