The Challenge of Accessing Primary Care
For the homeless population, the daily search for food, clothing and shelter takes priority over health care.
The challenges to accessing appropriate care are daunting:
- Homelessness complicates the management of chronic illnesses because it presents difficulties in assuring proper nutrition, practicing healthy behaviors and even storing medications.
- Homeless individuals often mistrust health care providers, and only after developing relationships with known providers will they be examined and treated.
- Complex and chronic medical problems are often compounded by mental illness and substance use disorders.
An Entry Point for Prevention
Primary care provides a critical opportunity to address concerns beyond the immediate issue. This objective requires a model that integrates primary care, behavioral health care, dental care and case management services.
Every interaction is a chance to assess a patient's needs across those disciplines. Through the intake, assessment and treatment process, the behavioral health needs and dental needs of each patient are identified.
The most common primary diagnoses of adult individuals served by Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program include:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Emphysema (COPD)
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Heart Disease
- Hepatitis C
- HIV infection
- Infestations and other skin diseases
- Substance Use Disorder
These are all treatable conditions. Without BHCHP these patients would either go untreated until more serious issues arose or they would find their way to hospital emergency and urgent care departments around the city.