Q&A: 4 important details about Avivo’s new mobile assessment program

When it comes to helping people access treatment quicker and easierAvivo is literally thinking outside the box (in terms of buildings vs. outside). We’re initiating a mobile program which allows people experiencing long-term homelessness to have comprehensive assessments completed where they live or stay

Avivo assessment team members Jason Lennox, Director of Revenue Cycle Management, and Jess HoppeChemical Health Assessor and our Outreach Internfor a Q&A to learn more: 


What kind of assessments does Avivo do to figure out if someone needs treatment, and why are assessments important? 

Jess & Jason: When we’re out meeting people experiencing homelessness on the streets, in hotels, in the parks, and in encampments, I start by providing the person information about our programs. I also let them know the decision to attend a treatment program is ultimately theirs. I want them to know they have the power of choice. 

Avivo conducts what are called “comprehensive assessments.” That means that we assess the individual’s need for anything from treatment (including harm reduction services), to housing, to mental health services, or a combination of any or all of those three services. We use the results of assessments to determine if treatment or other services are warranted for that person, and to find a treatment program that matches their needs. 

Assessments are centered on the person and their needs. It’s a way to help individuals understand their own history and to guide them toward which treatment plan might be most helpful. It allows them to have a say in their treatment plans, as well as if they choose to enroll in any of Avivo’s other services (such as mental health services, career education, or employment services). 


How unique is it to serve someone outside of a traditional brick-and-mortar building, and how does this help bypass barriers to treatment and help the person being assessed?

Previously, while visiting someone where they lived we tried scheduling in-person assessments [at Avivo’s location]and that was largely unsuccessful. There are just too many barriers to coming to 1900 Chicago Avenue. Many of the people we meet don’t own phones, watches, or have any access to transportation. 

To solve that problem, Avivo created a mobile assessor position which allows someone to get a comprehensive assessment outside of our building. Jess is able to assess people in encampments and hotels to eliminate barriers. [Avivo is temporarily housing individuals in a hotel who we evacuated from an encampment prior to unrest in Minneapolis.] 

We also have a second assessor who’s able to conduct assessments at the hotels, as well as at prisons and other facilities. Our third assessor also conducts assessments for individuals in prison, in hospitals, etc. 

By eliminating barriers, we can assess individuals at the exact moment they’re ready to seek treatment. 


Why is Avivo uniquely positioned to implement mobile assessments? 

We’re different than many other programs with chemical health assessors, because Avivo isn’t only a team of assessors. We have chemical and mental health professionals on staff. We have street outreach staff. We have a housing team. Having all these different service types puts us in a unique spot with greater flexibility. Plus, our staff have the willingness to go anywhere and do anything to help people get into treatment. Staff will drop everything on the fly to go out and help someone. 

Avivo’s street outreach team will meet people while checking in on their general wellbeing at tents and encampments. If someone is ready for an assessment, we will meet with them on the spot. 


What are your goals for the program, and what else do you hope to achieve? 

People we’re meeting benefit from quick and easy access to treatment programs as our mobile assessments remove barriers to treatment. This saves lives. 

One thing people should know is that not every person with a substance abuse disorder is ready to enter treatment. It’s important that we remove as many barriers as possible to allow them the freedom to enter treatment when they’re ready to make that major life change. 

By meeting people where they are at, we’re seeing much higher rates of follow-through than if we were to meet people and invite them to come to a brick-and-mortar location for an assessment. In fact, of the mobile assessments completed, the admission to treatment, housing, or other services has been about 75% successful thus far. Three of every four people we assess chooses to make a life change. We hope this number climbs as we continue to finetune the process and reach more individuals.