Health care on wheels: Tapestry van brings services to the people


Staff Writer

Published: 08-07-2023 3:47 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Since last summer, nearly 1,800 people around the Valley have received reproductive, addiction, and sexual health services on a mobile van operated by Tapestry Health.

The van is part of a “Community Care in Reach” program funded by the Kraft Center for Community Health, which works with organizations in Boston, Worcester, Brockton and western Massachusetts to provide care to historically disadvantaged communities.

Fully stocked with syringes, safe sex supplies, medications and more, the Tapestry-operated van has been on the road moving between Northampton, Holyoke, Chicopee and Springfield since August 2022.

“It’s a licensed facility, just like our brick and mortars are,” said Cindy Miller, director of clinical services at Tapestry Health, a community health care organization that offers sexual and reproductive care, food and nutrition education, and harm reduction services.

“To be able to do the kind of care that’s happening on the van, it really can only happen in that kind of a vehicle that’s equipped and certified,” she said.

The idea is to reduce barriers in care for people living with addiction and/or homelessness, and for those without access to health care.

With that in mind, the van is typically co-located with another service provider, homeless shelter or methadone clinic.

“Our motto basically is to meet people where they’re at,” said Miller. “Our goal really is to service a population that has difficulty accessing traditional medical services because of a lot of factors including stigma and just negative experiences they’ve had with more traditional medical care.”

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The van is staffed with mid-level practitioners, physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners, along with at least two individuals who do case management and education with patients. A wound care specialist is also on the van several days a week.

Services provided are extensive, ranging from harm reduction like syringe exchanges, overdose education, and safe use supplies, to testing for sexually transmitted infections, HIV and hepatitis.

The van also is stocked with a variety of contraceptives, “everything from birth control pills to IUDs,” according to Miller, as well as gender-affirming hormones, COVID-19 and monkeypox vaccinations, and wound care supplies.

The van is even equipped with an exam room licensed through the Department of Public Health.

Miller said providers on the van also work with emergency rooms and traditional providers for medical services outside their scope.

“It’s developing those relationships and creating a smoother path for folks to be able to enter more traditional medical care,” said Miller.

As for cost, insurance is billed for those who have it. For those without insurance, services are provided for free or at a low cost.

“We understand the economic situation folks are in,” said Miller. “I can’t think of a scenario where we’ve ever said, ‘you can’t have that because you won’t give us money for it.’ That doesn’t happen in our world.”

The Department of Public Health funds the van’s reproductive health care, and the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services funds harm reduction services, so that care is subsidized or offered at no cost to patients.

On a given day, the van may serve more or less 30 people, many of whom are returning patients and others new to the program.

“I think what’s really driving our reputation is that we are a safe, confidential, free place for them to be able to get what they need, and get it in a way that provides no stigma,” said Miller.

A schedule of the van’s locations can be found at

Maddie Fabian can be reached at or on Twitter @MaddieFabian.]]>