Medicine that Matters
Over 11,000 homeless individuals are cared for by Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program each year. We are committed to ensuring that every one of these individuals has access to comprehensive health care, from preventative dental care to cancer treatment. Our clinicians, case managers, and behavioral health professionals work in more than 35 locations to deliver the highest quality health care to some of our community’s most vulnerable—and most resilient—citizens. BHCHP provides care without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran status, military service, national origin, immigration status, genetic information or marital status.
IMPORTANT COVID-19/MASS & CASS UPDATE (December 2021)
We continue to closely monitor the progression of the COVID-19 Omicron variant as it proceeds across the US, Massachusetts, and Boston. As is the case in the broader community in Boston, we are beginning to see an escalation in the number of people in our practice, both sheltered and unsheltered, who are infected with SARS-CoV-2. We have learned from previous COVID-19 waves how to care for our patients and staff. We continue to work with the City of Boston, the Boston Public Health Commission, the State of Massachusetts, and many other partners to provide vaccination with as few barriers as possible, to conduct surveillance testing for people living in congregate settings, and to quickly isolate infected people. Now more than ever, our shelter partners rely on our medical expertise and deep relationships with patients to advise them on public health best practices, including on COVID-19.
Our staff continues to acutely feel COVID’s impact. Delivering equitable and high quality health care throughout this pandemic has taken its toll on our program. As the shelters have been forced to decongest and many of our patients have dispersed—often to the streets—access to medical care has diminished. For the past three years, our amazing harm reduction nurses have been providing services amid a true humanitarian crisis at Boston’s Mass/Cass encampment. Our presence in the encampment has steadily grown to 17 staff members, including nurses, case managers, psychiatrists, social workers, and doctors, who administer care in the encampment with a framework of disaster medicine—continually reversing overdoses, administering wound care, working to stop transmission of HIV, bearing witness to unspeakable traumas, and much more—including saving hundreds of lives. Our work at the encampment is extremely difficult—physically and emotionally. With workforce exhaustion at its peak, we are concerned for our staff’s well-being. Their resilience and commitment are remarkable. We are grateful to be working with Mayor Wu and her leadership team, and all our community partners, as unhoused people are offered new and healthier spaces to stay, including transitional housing and low threshold shelter.
We are grateful for your generosity towards our work during this incredibly difficult time. The layered crises of the COVID pandemic and the overdose epidemic have strained our program like never before. It makes all the difference to know you are supporting us in countless ways.
Please view our video below that includes insights from various staff and members of our community about our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It truly underscores the power of our community during this turbulent and unprecedented time. We remain grateful for our BHCHP community of donors, shelter and hospital partners, city and state government, and advocates for their steadfast support in helping us care for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Thank you!
Dr. O'Connell’s collection of stories and essays, written during thirty years of caring for homeless persons in Boston, gently illuminates the humanity and raw courage of those who struggle to survive and find meaning and hope while living on the streets.