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VA deploying mobile medical unit to help homeless Tucson veterans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is  sending mobile medical units across the country to help address the needs of homeless vets — and veterans in Tucson will benefit.

The  VA Southern Arizona Health Care System in Tucson applied for a grant and was awarded one of 25 units issued nationwide. It is expected to  arrive in January 2024 and be operational in Tucson by February. 

“Luckily, we will receive a 27-foot medical mobile unit that has two full exam rooms, wheelchair lift on the back, that will really allow us to access patients and to really meet patients where they’re at," said Dr. Beth Tranen with the Tuscon system.

While Pima County’s overall homeless vet population has decreased from last year, Dr. Peter Reding with the  Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team says mobile medical units will help lower barriers for veterans still living on the streets. 

“Veterans who are experiencing homelessness are now more likely to be unsheltered and so the greatest increase has been in veterans who are unsheltered. And that’s where the creation of the mobile medical unit is going to really help us," Reding said.

The mobile unit will primarily operate in the VA Southern Arizona Health Care System area. They hope to expand coverage to places like Sierra Vista and Sells Indian Hospital.

Funding for the program comes from the American Rescue Plan.

Jill Ryan joined KJZZ in 2020 as a morning reporter, and she is currently a field correspondent and Morning Edition producer.