INDIGENT CARE: Groups Reach Out To Homeless Population
Sunday's Los Angeles Times followed a number of street outreach health workers in their daily efforts to bring Los Angeles County's estimated 90,000 homeless people to clinics and hospitals before they are brought in for life-threatening conditions. The Times reports that the "idea behind street outreach is simple: Don't wait for the region's thousands of needy patients to come to the hospital. Go to them -- in alleys, sidewalk encampments and concrete caves beneath freeways -- to find out what they need." The motive behind the program is two-fold. First, from a financial standpoint, treating chronic illnesses before they become critical saves taxpayer dollars. Second, from a charitable point of view, they believe health care is a basic human right. In addition to free medical care, organizations like Homeless Health Care Los Angeles provide "food vouchers, emergency shelter, help finding permanent housing, substance abuse counseling [and] job training." The Times reports that "[s]treet outreach strains the narrow definition of health care -- stretching it beyond treating tuberculosis or foot fungus to addressing social and psychological ills. In hard--to-reach patients, these problems are so bound up with their physical status that it is impossible to separate the strands." Homeless Healthcare serves some 400 homeless clients on a $1.2 million annual budget and targets "the people in our society that no one else wants to deal with ... drug-addicted, alcoholic, HIV-positive, homeless mental patients," according to the agency's board Chair David Longness (Marquis, 11/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.