[Hpn] V.C. program helps homeless

William CharlesTinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sun, 9 Jan 2005 11:02:36 -0500

V.C. program helps homeless

By Paul E. Lorenz
January 9, 2005

The Ventura County Public Health Department receives funds from the Bureau
of Primary Health Care to support the Health Care for the Homeless Program
in Ventura County.
As a division of the Ventura County Health Care Agency, the Public Health
Department is able to access and leverage a vast array of quality health
services, including specialty care, through the Ventura County Medical
Center and Behavioral Health Department. This cooperation, along with the
support of various nonprofit agencies and organizations, allows the Health
Care for the Homeless Program to provide services throughout Ventura County.

The Health Care for the Homeless Program is focused on providing healthcare
services to homeless people via nurse practitioners at various
nontraditional sites in the cities of Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Paula,
Camarillo, Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley. Since January 2004, the program
has served more than 1,900 unduplicated clients. The program addresses
various ailments in the homeless population that may otherwise be left
untreated. For many, this is the first opportunity they have had in many
years to talk with a healthcare professional about their concerns.
In an effort to address the many challenges in delivering needed services to
the homeless population, and protecting the health and well-being of our
entire community, it is essential that organizations work together, remain
flexible and creative, and support a common goal.
Over the past several months, it has been a pleasure to be able to work with
the many organizations, city and county departments, in ensuring that
homeless individuals have the necessary tuberculosis clearance to access the
winter warming shelters. This is an excellent example of a cooperative,
supportive and proactive approach among many organizations to prevent the
spread of communicable diseases and reduce the cost and burden on the
healthcare system.
The most unique aspect of the Health Care for the Homeless Program is the
dedicated staff. Their knowledge of the population, with their commitment to
excellence in service, has led to a comprehensive healthcare delivery model
that is sensitive to the preservation of human dignity. The homeless
population has responded positively to the program and has been truly
grateful for the help they have received. Many patients are faced with
difficult health and psychosocial issues that require extensive evaluation
and follow-up. Coupled with an unstable living situation, these patients can
be extremely challenging even for the most well-seasoned practitioner.
Again, the collaboration between public and private entities is the single
most influential characteristic guiding the success of this program. It is
our hope that the Health Care for the Homeless Program continues to receive
funding from the Bureau of Primary Health Care so that the homeless
population can continue to benefit from this much-needed service and we, as
a community, can continue to care for the underserved.
-- Paul E. Lorenz is director of Public Health in the Ventura County Health
Care Agency.

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