Mobile Behavioral Health & Addiction Clinics: Battling the Stigma

“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.”

Over forty years ago, Sister Bernadette Kenny of the Catholic Order Medical Missionaries would drive her Volkswagen Beetle through the rural mountain roads of Appalachia to deliver health care to remote and disenfranchised people. Sister Kenny’s efforts eventually became a $3.6 million organization known as Central Appalachia’s Saint Mary’s Health Wagon, providing a number of healthcare services, including mobile behavioral health clinics.

Behavioral health is a significantly pervasive problem in America. Over 20 percent of U.S. adults live with a mental illness ranging from mild to moderate and severe. Yet even mild conditions can grow into greater levels of severity and should not be ignored.

Mobile Behavioral Health Clinics offer access to care for integrated behavioral health and addiction services. Mental illness disorders typically present themselves as depression and anxiety, often brought about fromBehavioral Health Mobile Clinic isolation, hereditary and/or environmental conditions and may include addiction and substance abuse. And these addictions can be a result of living with anxiety or depression where the individual uses opioids, alcohol or a mirid of other drugs to mask their symptoms. As an example of the common saying in the mental health community “You Are Not Alone”; innovative healthcare institutions use mobile clinics to break down barriers of the stigma many patients feel about seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist, along with their lack of access to fixed clinics.

In addition, mobile clinics help disenfranchised children with behavioral health disorders that may include Asperger’s syndrome, autism and ADHD, which if untreated will carry on at the same propensity into adulthood.

These disorders can also present themselves in destructive behaviors. “An estimated 56 percent of state and 45 percent of federal prisoners, along with 64 percent of jail inmates, have a mental health problem.”

Patients struggling to be treated for behavioral health issues at brick and mortar clinics are often cut off due to lack of transportation or living an Mobile Clinic interiorunreasonable distance from a clinic. And worse, not seeking help because of stigmas brought on by family and friends telling them to push through it or seeking help shows weakness. To address accessibility issues healthcare institutions can bring mobile medical clinics into their programs and tackle the stigma issue with supportive advertising and even public service announcements through local media outlets and social media platforms. A mobile behavioral health clinic provides the same private and secure environment as a mental health counseling service, offering psychiatric, talk therapy, substance use treatment and emotional health education.

Mobile clinics providing behavioral care and substance use disorder treatment are becoming far more prevalent in these days of veteran’s post-traumatic stress disorders, growing societal pressures, dangerous sprawling urban neighborhoods and increased isolation in rural communities. Behavioral health services provided by mobile medical units allow SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) programs and campaigns to advance the quality and delivery of behavioral health services.

Financial Assistance and Grants

Information for 2023 and 2024 financial assistance and grants for starting your own Mobile Behavioral Health Clinic can be found at:

Finally, Community Mental Health Services Block Grants (MHBG) provide funding for community mental health services to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and several pacific jurisdictions.

Federally Qualified Health Centers

FQHCs expand their scope of care with mobile clinics by addressing the mental health needs in their communities and providing options in behavioral health treatment. Many of these options are not available to underserved populations due to the lack of physical clinics and/or qualified behavioral health professionals in their area. More than ever before FQHCs rely on mobile clinics to provide behavioral health and substance abuse services.

In addition, the flexibility of mobile clinics to provide both behavioral and primary care from one unit brings enormous benefits to communities. By providing both primary and mental health care in one mobile unit, practitioners can help patients manage their overall health more effectively, improving outcomes.


Since 2019 there has been a 40 percent increase in the number of mobile health centers on the road, expanding care into underserved, rural and urban communities desperate for adequate healthcare.

It’s now a matter of not being left behind in serving the behavioral health needs of your community. As the use of mobile medical units has been rapidly expanding in recent years, more health facilities have been using them to expand their service offerings, contributing to their bottom line.

In 2020 an economic study into the profitability of mobile medical clinics demonstrated a significant ROI. The methodology included a survey of 96 mobile clinic programs which demonstrate they are highly cost effective particularly compared to ER visits, providing annual savings of up to $36 for every $1 invested. Mobile health clinics can be very profitable in contributing to your overall business by:

  • Reaching more clients
  • Having a roving billboard on wheels traveling through your community
  • Attracting new patients to your home facility
  • Expanding a positive presence in your business community
  • Putting you a step above your competition in provided services
  • And much more

Mobile medical clinics provide everything from dental exams and treatments at schools, mammography services for women, primary and preventative care to rural and urban communities, and behavioral health services to those on the fringes or stigmatized by societal influences.

In March 2023 Congress passed the Mobile Health Care Act which takes effect on January 1, 2024. This legislation significantly increases the resources and capabilities of Community Health Centers in putting mobile clinics on the road in rural and underserved communities. Healthcare institutions will be able to use federal funds from the New Access Points Grants program to establish new mobile health care delivery for medical services ranging from dental to addiction services.

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