BHCHP’s story begins in 1985 when it first began caring for individuals experiencing homelessness in clinics located at the Pine Street Inn, Long Island Shelter, Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center) and Massachusetts General Hospital and on the streets of Boston.
Earlier that year, Boston, along with 18 other U.S. cities, had a received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create Health Care for the Homeless programs. A committee, lead by the then-Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn and composed of the city’s hospitals and homeless advocates, was tasked with creating a charter for this new program—with a mandate to end the existing fragmented state of medicine for this marginalized population by providing continuity of high-quality health care from street and shelter to hospital to respite care to home. It also provided for a 24/7 respite program (now called the Barbara McInnis House) to care for these individuals who were too sick to return to the streets or shelter, yet not sick enough for an acute hospital stay.
The grant required a medical doctor to manage the care at BHCHP. Dr. Jim O’Connell joined that same year as the founding physician of BHCHP, having graduated from Harvard Medical School and recently completed an internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. As a fully credentialed physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. O’Connell began a tradition of BHCHP clinicians being credentialed at either Massachusetts General Hospital or Boston Medical Center, thereby assuring the goal of continuity of care for our patients within the hospitals.
During that first winter of 1985, the number of people dying on the streets led the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Department of Public Health to fund an overnight van run by the Pine Street Inn. Dr. O’Connell joined the van staff two nights each week to comb the streets of Boston seeking to engage “rough sleepers”—those sleeping on street corners, under bridges, down back alleys—by offering sandwiches, hot soup, blankets, clothing, medical care, a smiling face, and a consistent and non-judgmental presence. BHCHP’s street team continues to walk the streets of Boston and to be the medical health presence on the overnight van, seeking out individuals whose struggle to survive each day makes access to our shelter and hospital clinics difficult. The team also makes house calls to newly housed patients to continue their care and advocacy.
The staff at BHCHP work hard every day to provide continuity of care for our patients from street and shelter to hospital and respite care and home.
Please take a moment to read more about BHCHP in our historic timeline below.
The city of Boston receives funds for one of 19 homeless health care pilot programs that will be funded across the country by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trust.
BHCHP begins providing comprehensive primary care and dental services at 3 hospital clinics and 14 adult and family shelter clinics…
BHCHP begins providing comprehensive primary care and dental services at 3 hospital clinics and 14 adult and family shelter clinics.
The Family Team of health care providers is created to focus on the special needs of homeless families living in shelters, hotels and motels.
The Nation’s first medical respite program is opened by BHCHP with 5 beds at the Lemuel Shattuck Shelter. These will grow to 25 beds over the next few months.
Street Team medical services begin with a BHCHP physician on Pine Street Inn (PSI)’s overnight van.
BHCHP’s HIV Team is formed. This is the first multidisciplinary, multicultural program in the country to offer primary and specialty care for people experiencing homelessness and living with HIV.
BHCHP becomes a federally qualified health center (FQHC) after the passage of the McKinney Act and receives funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)’s Bureau of Primary Health.
BHCHP’s collaboration with many area schools of medicine in the training of interns and residents is already a regular aspect of life at BHCHP and will evolve to include collaboration with all the area hospitals, schools of medicine and schools of nursing over the next few years.
BHCHP publishes The Manual of Common Communicable Diseases in Shelters, the first manual of communicable diseases and common problems among homeless persons for medical professionals, shelter staff and guests.
BHCHP’s clinic at Suffolk Downs Thoroughbred Racetrack opens, the first of its kind in the nation. It serves the needs of more than 500 homeless and migrant backstretch workers who live at the track.
The Barbara McInnis House opens for medical respite care, the first facility of its kind in the country, providing…
The Barbara McInnis House opens for medical respite care, the first facility of its kind in the country, providing effective, dignified, around the clock respite care for patients too sick for shelter or the streets but not sick enough to occupy an acute care bed in one of Boston’s hospitals.
The country’s first-ever Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) is formed at BHCHP. This group is made up of homeless or formerly homeless men and women and meets monthly to develop BHCHP’s advocacy agenda and to provide feedback to help shape programs and policies.
The Street Team expands in response to the growing number of deaths on the streets, to include medical rounds on the street during the day and at Boston Night Center and on the PSI van at night…
The Street Team expands in response to the growing number of deaths on the streets, to include medical rounds on the street during the day and at Boston Night Center and on the PSI van at night.
BHCHP begins offering behavioral health services to address a growing, unmet need. This service quickly becomes an indispensable aspect of the care provided at virtually every BHCHP site.
BHCHP becomes the nation’s first homeless program to implement an electronic medical records system, enabling better coordination of care across hospital and shelter clinics. This is done in collaboration with the Laboratory of Computer Science at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The BHCHP Institute is created to support staff development and enhance capacity to explore broader trends in homeless health care.
Consumer Advisory Board members join BHCHP’s Board of Directors.
The Street Team integrates medical and behavioral health care with the addition of a part-time psychiatrist and licensed clinical social worker…
The Street Team integrates medical and behavioral health care with the addition of a part-time psychiatrist and licensed clinical social worker.
BHCHP assumes responsibility for the primary care clinics at Pine Street Inn, Long Island Shelter and Woods-Mullen Shelter, three of Boston’s largest homeless shelters.
BHCHP launches a Volunteer Services Program. Volunteers can now offer their help in fulfilling the mission of BHCHP while they expand their understanding of the causes and effects of homelessness.
BHCHP begins partnership with AmeriCorps/Community HealthCorps, a national service program for individuals dedicated to future careers in health care.
Program-wide integration of primary care with behavioral health is realized when full-time psychiatrists and social workers are added to two BHCHP teams in a pilot program with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) funded by MGH.
Our Jean Yawkey Place clinic opens following a successful $42M capital campaign, just in time to meet a sharp increase in homelessness. It houses integrated medical, behavioral health, and dental clinics, a pharmacy, and an expanded 104-bed Barbara McInnis House.
Jean Yawkey Place meets the growing challenge of the first full year of operation…
Jean Yawkey Place meets the growing challenge of the first full year of operation
- 35% more primary care patients
- 33% more dental patients
- 34% more behavioral health patients
- 7 % more admissions for respite care.
- 200% increase in the services provided at the pharmacy.
The BHCHP Transgender Clinic opens at Jean Yawkey Place in response to the lack of essential health care services for this extremely vulnerable homeless population.
BHCHP’s Emergency Preparedness Team leads on-going medical response to H1N1 pandemic by educating all the city’s shelter directors as well as in-house staff and patients
BHCHP honors 25 years of Medicine that Matters…
- BHCHP honors 25 years of Medicine that Matters
- 33 BHCHP doctors, nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners rotate in and out of Haiti for week-long stints to bring urgently needed care to injured earthquake patients
- Board of Directors creates Dennis Buff Bequest Society, honoring a legacy gift from a long-time patient after his passing and inspiring donors to consider including BHCHP in their estate planning
BHCHP begins meeting with the emergency departments (EDs) of our four major hospital partners—Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Tufts Medical Center—to intervene in the cycle of utilization and hospitalization of our patients who use EDs the most frequently.
Community Support Workers are hired to team up with primary care providers to deliver in home care to highly vulnerable, newly housed patients…
- Community Support Workers are hired to team up with primary care providers to deliver in home care to highly vulnerable, newly housed patients. The innovative home care team reaches out to patients experiencing crises related to medical, social, behavioral health and substance use disorders that may otherwise endanger their tenancy and result in a return to homelessness.
- A specialized and comprehensive system of end-of-life care is developed at the Barbara McInnis House. A multi-disciplinary team—made up of physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, and aides—have been trained in palliative care and now offer guidance to other McInnis House staff on issues arising with their dying patients
- Barbara McInnis House enhances its services to address substance use disorders with the addition of specialized counselors and twice daily support groups
BHCHP’s BMC Clinic is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance…
BHCHP receives the American Academy of Physician Assistants’ Caring for Communities award. This award recognizes and supports the work of PAs and PA students who make a difference…
BHCHP receives the American Academy of Physician Assistants Caring for Communities award. This award recognizes and supports the work of PAs and PA students who make a difference in the lives of people struggling with a variety of health and social issues.
In response to longer shelter and motel stays for homeless families, BHCHP’s Family Team establishes primary care clinics at Crittenton Women’s Union and St. Mary’s Center for Women & Children. These new clinics allow more long-term care that includes immunizations, some diagnostic testing, developmental screening for children, parent education, oral health screenings, and smoking cessation.
BHCHP launches its own chapter of Back on My Feet, a national organization helping homeless people transform their lives through running. Staff and volunteers meet patients 3 days each week to run or walk with them.
As part of its response to the Long Island Bridge closure and one of the coldest, snowiest winters in history, BHCHP funds the re-opening of the Night Center, a drop-in center for homeless men and women…
As part of its response to the Long Island Bridge closure and one of the coldest, snowiest winters in history, BHCHP funds the re-opening of the Night Center, a drop-in center for homeless men and women. There were no deaths of homeless persons due to hypothermia or exposure that winter.
A partnership with Bridge Over Troubled Waters is formed and health care services are provided to homeless youth in Boston through a nurse practitioner and health educator from BHCHP.
Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor by Dr. Jim O’Connell is published.
BHCHP recognizes its 30th anniversary of providing medicine that matters to greater Boston’s men, women, and children who are homeless.
BHCHP responds to meningococcal outbreak in Boston area shelters.
BHCHP opens Stacy Kirkpatrick House – a 20-bed step down medical respite facility and outpatient clinic in Jamaica Plain.
SPOT (Supportive Place for Observation and Treatment) opens at 780 Albany Street in response to the growing opioid epidemic.
HER (Health Empowerment and Resources) Saturday weekly women’s clinic is launched by BHCHP’s Women’s Health Initiative.
BHCHP’s CareZone mobile medical van begins operations. Today, the van is called the Community Care in Reach (CCiR), and serves as a mobile clinic providing care around substance use disorders.
When the COVID pandemic hit our patient population here in Boston, we pressed pause on many of our regular programs and shifted into disaster mode.
- Partnering with Mass General Brigham, the city of Boston, and the commonwealth of Massachusetts to set up and operate the half of Boston Hope dedicated to treating homeless patients. Boston Hope was the field hospital located at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. BHCHP managed 500 beds for unsheltered, COVID-positive patients.
- Testing patients for COVID-19 at shelters and other sites across the city.
- Transforming an entire floor of our Barbara McInnis House respite program into a COVID-19 unit, reducing the density at area hospitals.
- Equipping and operating a 16-bed medical tent to care for patients with no place to self-isolate while awaiting test results.
- Operating a 24/7 phone hotline for shelter partners seeking COVID-related medical advice.
- Advising partner organizations on infection control, coronavirus testing and treatment, and building a COVID-19 system of care.
BHCHP’s Family Clinic at Horizons Center opens, providing a larger, dedicated space for clinicians to care for parents and children experiencing homelessness.
According to Dr. Aura Obando, internist on BHCHP’s family medicine team, the new clinic “improves overall access for our patients, five days a week. Patients can call when they are not feeling well, and no matter what shelter or program they are located in, be seen that day. This amazing space allows our patients to meet their medical, mental health, and case management needs in a one-stop-shopping approach, which is not only a best practice for clinical medicine, but also a core tenet of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program model.”