The title of this blog is a testimony to the noble instincts that engender the highest aspirations of America's social services community. The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 initially authorized the Health Care for the Homeless Program. (No one we polled in the past two weeks had any idea that healthcare was available to our homeless population.) In 1996, Congress combined the HCH Program with Community Health Centers, Migrant Health Centers, and Primary Care in Public Housing under the Consolidated Health Center Program. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided additional resources to expand services and delivery sites.
In the most recent analysis of homelessness by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the United States had 567,715 homeless individuals counted in January 2019. Homelessness has been recognized as a public health issue because homeless people suffer from higher rates of illness, including tuberculosis, hypertension, asthma, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. In addition, according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, homeless people have been shown to die, on average, 12 years sooner than the general U.S. population. Both sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations experience adverse health outcomes. Living on the streets and in homeless shelters pose unique health risks such as exposure to communicable diseases, harmful weather conditions, violence, drug use, and malnutrition. These issues are then intensified by the emotional and mental stressors inherent in the homeless status. Homeless individuals often experience difficulty accessing treatment and preventive care due to lack of insurance, lack of transportation, and high cost. These barriers lead to greater utilization of emergency services and higher rates of medical hospitalizations for serious conditions. In addition, homeless individuals are often discharged with inadequate resources into settings that are inappropriate for proper recovery, leading to higher rates of re-admittance and adverse health outcomes.
The National Health Care for the Homeless Council
"Grounded in human rights and social justice, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council’s mission is to build an equitable, high-quality health care system through training, research, and advocacy in the movement to end homelessness."
By 2017, 299 health centers received federal grant support under the Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) Program and collectively they serve nearly one million homeless patients. Their mission is to promote health, hope and dignity for those affected by homelessness through accessible and comprehensive quality care.
"Because we only serve patients who are experiencing homelessness, we are able to tailor our clinical model and services to meet the distinct and often complex health and social needs of those we serve. Our purpose is to be a primary care "health home" for those experiencing homelessness. We take a holistic approach by providing many integrated services, including medical care, mental health services, addiction counseling, case management, and dental care. Specialized programming helps address the unique needs of individuals, such as programming specific to the needs of women and children, those who are diagnosed with a mental illness, those battling addiction, and people who have experienced chronic homelessness." (Healthcare for the Homeless, Houston)
The increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. magnified the need for medical respite/recuperative care. The Council launched a major new initiative in July 2020 – the National Institute for Medical Respite Care (NIMRC). Medical respite care, also known as recuperative care, is short-term residential care that gives individuals experiencing homelessness the opportunity to rest, recover, and heal in a safe environment while accessing medical care and other supportive services. NIMRC helps organizations and communities grow their programs by providing technical, research, advocacy, and other services. In February 2021, NIMRC and the CDC Foundation awarded $1.6 million to nine programs in seven states and the District of Columbia. The funding enables programs to mitigate barriers to care resulting from inadequate facilities or physical space, insufficient staffing and personnel, and insufficient medical equipment. At the end of the 2020-2021 fiscal year, 115 organizations were included in NIMRC’s medical respite/recuperative care directory.
Together We Can Work Wonders
We consider it part of our mission at GVT to expose as many people as possible to the good works that the American people and our government engage in every day. It is our hope that this will help, in some small way, to reunite a very divided population.
We've chosen a few other popular blogs on the subject that we hope, you might find relevant.