A health service that offers support to Canberra's vulnerable will be upgraded from a suitcase to a van.
Direction Health Services has launched a new mobile health clinic to provide medical and counselling services to Canberrans living in public housing or experiencing homelessness.
The "life saving" community outreach service has been offered at Oaks Estate public housing and Ainslie Village for three years but it has been difficult to provide care without a proper facility, practice nurse Ali Loom said.
"We have been operating out of rooms in different public housing complexes with a suitcase," she said.
"This is a real game changer to have a purpose-built van to provide health care to Canberra's vulnerable peoples groups."
Initially, the "Pathways to Assistance and Treatment" van, or "Pat" for short, will offer its services to residents in Oaks Estate public housing and Ainslie Village. It will be parked at both sites one day a week.
But the service will be expanded from January where it will be parked at an additional three locations a week. As well, it will start to offer mental health support through counsellors and mental health clinicians. The expanded service would also be able to assist those experiencing homelessness.
Directions Health Services is a drug treatment service that provides treatment and support to people affected by alcohol, drugs and other addictions.
"Alcohol and drug dependence, and mental and chronic health conditions are frequently intertwined and often result in unstable housing and homelessness," Directions Health Services chief executive Bronwyn Hendry said.
"Unfortunately, people facing these challenges often find it difficult to access services, particularly holistic services.
"This was the driver behind the establishment three years ago of our successful primary health care outreach services at Ainslie Village and Oaks Estate.
"Through this service, people can see a doctor, a nurse or a drug and alcohol counsellor."
Ms Hendry said in 2018 the company began to raise funds to purchase the van. "Pat" received funding from the John James Foundation, the Capital Health Network and received a community grant from Member for Bean David Smith.
The van launched on Wednesday where it provided its first service to residents of Oaks Estate public housing.
Ms Loom was super excited about launch of the van and said it would mean they could offer medical treatment to a greater number of people who have struggled to get the appropriate support in mainstream services.
"I see a lot of people who are unable to access care in the mainstream services for a multitude of reasons. Either they can't afford to go, they can't get themselves there, they don't have transport, [they're] homeless or have a lot of chronic health issues," she said.
For Ms Loom the most crucial part of her role was the conversation, fitting as the van has "chat with Pat" splashed across it.
"One of the most important things that I do is just develop rapport with people," she said.
"A lot of the time they have had negative experiences with health care providers so being able to develop that trust with clients so they can come and then talk about their health needs so we can provide the care they need, it's really key in my role."