Happy and Healthy: Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program provides

Norman Wante
Spare Change News

It began with six clinicians requesting access to area shelters and
over the last 25 years has grown into an organization dedicated to
delivering quality health care to Boston’s homeless.
Founded in 1985, Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program
has been dedicated to assuring Boston’s homeless community has
access to quality health care.
The organization operates walk-in clinics at Boston Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital while also providing medical and behavioral health services at more than 80 homeless shelters and outreach sites throughout the greater
Boston area, including the Pine Street Inn, Rosie’s Place, Long Island
Shelter, and many more.
Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program also runs The Barbara McInnis House, a 104 bed medical respite facility which provides 24 hour, cost-effective medical and
recuperative services for patients with complex conditions like
cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, high risk pregnancy, or for those
too sick for life on the streets or in shelters.
Boston Healthcare for the Homeless features full time doctors and nurses who use a treatment model that integrates primary care and behavioral care at all points of patient contact: on the streets, down the alleys and under the bridges of the city, in the backstretch of a local racetrack, in adult and family shelters, in community
health centers and in preparing patient discharge plans at Boston’s
renowned academic medical centers.
While the Boston Healthcare for the homeless program offers clinics and outreach in more then 80 locations throughout Boston, they are based out of the Jean Yawky Place at Massachusetts General Hospital, which is visited by more than 1,900 members of Boston’s homeless community every year. The Jean Yawky Place provides patients with access to services such as outpatient primary care, dental and mental health care as well as a pharmacy and a 104 bed care facility for those too sick for life on the streets
or in shelters.
Medical care for homeless patients is often fragmented between
different settings and providers- leading to sporadic, delayed and
often redundant care. By establishing strong relationships with
patients across a spectrum of clinical settings, the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program can create a continuity of care that helps avoid dispersion and allows them to
thoroughly address acute issues as they arise and to manage chronic
illnesses and take preventative health measures as needed.
“We have a very different medical model. We have to build relationships, build trust,
and make our patients feel comfortable,” said Medical Director, Monica Bharel, M.D. “The most important thing that we do as health care professionals and concerned citizens is to put mainstream medicine within reach of those who need it the most. As we
recognize gaps in healthcare for homeless people, we try to fill in
those gaps with services.
Bharel continued, “One recent examples of this is our transgender clinic, which provides a comfortable and welcoming place for transgendered men and women. The Transgender Clinic, sited within the Primary Care Clinic, provides once-a-week medical and behavioral health services for those who are experiencing the dual risk factors
of being homeless and transgender, and our Suboxone service for the
treatment of opiate addiction.”
For the scores of women who have experienced trauma, medical care
can be frightening and invasive. Since one in five patients cared for
by the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Progra, are women , they have adopted a unique approach that addresses the health challenges that confront homeless women, with
gentle, one on one care from compassionate clinicians, trained in
woman’s health issues, including the effects of trauma. A care that
will focus on forming a trusting relationship, improve the rates of
PAP and mammogram testing, identify health needs including weight loss
and smoking cessation, and to identify the specific goals that will
empower each woman in managing her own health.
The region has seen a continuous increase in homelessness over
years, especially among families. Because of this, Boston Healthcare for the Homeless has experienced a commensurate increase in the need for expanded patient services and sought to establish a unifying hub to support its extensive outreach network.
For more information on the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program, visit http://www.bhchp.org/yawkey-more.html#

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