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Housing First's new mobile health clinic offers care to formerly homeless residents

Friday, January 30, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Samantha Porter
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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Nearly 600 formerly homeless people who live in particular housing units across Cuyahoga County will have consistent access to medical, dental and mental health care, thanks to a new mobile health care clinic.

Housing First of Cuyahoga County, an effort of more than 40 public and private groups, recently launched the Integrated Physical and Behavioral Health Care Mobile Clinic.

"This (the mobile clinic) is bringing physical and behavioral health care to a very vulnerable population that doesn't often see health care, and when they do it's often in the ER," said Jennifer Eppich, senior program director at Enterprise Community Partners.

Enterprise is the leader of the Housing First Initiative, one of the mobile clinic partners that provides free shelter for people with disabilities who've experienced long-term homelessness. In the 10 buildings it oversees, Housing First offers individual-apartment shelter to 584 people, all single adults and about 20 percent of them veterans.

The mobile clinic will circulate among the 10 Housing First buildings about every two weeks, said Eppich. Each building has a small on-site staff of counselors that can make mobile clinic appointments for residents, but mobile clinics walk-ins also will be welcome.

The clinic is staffed with medical assistants, psychiatric nurse practitioners and others in the medical field who will provide blood pressure checks, lab work for diabetes, body mass index evaluation, and more. Patients' records will be kept electronically, and referrals will be made to specialized medical care if needed.

The clinic was paid for by a $478,000 grant from the Housing Investment Fund, a project of the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, Eppich said.

"This (the mobile health care unit) is our latest innovation, if you will. We realized years back that we had a number of sick residents and something needed to be done about it," she said. "Residents come from the street and a lot of them have chronic illnesses and mental health issues. It's often a dual situation and the integrated nature of their care is very important."

Other mobile clinic partners are FrontLine Service, which reaches out to and provides a range of supportive services to the homeless, and Care Alliance Health Center, whose mission is to provide high-quality, comprehensive medical and dental care to people who need it, regardless of their ability to pay.

Said Care Alliance Chief Administrative Officer Kate Nagel, "This is the last piece that's been missing to provide wraparound care. It's removing barriers to health care, such as public transportation, and increasing access."

Eric Morse, FrontLine's Chief Operating Officer, said people who are chronically homeless die about 20 years earlier than the general population.

"For us working together (Frontline and Care Alliance), two organizations that have historically served the homeless, is great for our clients," said Eppich. "It (mobile care) can literally be a matter of life and death."

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