Left: Dr. Peter Smith, Medical Director of BHCHP speaking with the executives
Right: A roundtable session on BHCHP’s harm reduction services with Michelle Whitaker, RN
This past September BHCHP was delighted to host a group of 30 health care professionals from the TIAS Business School in the Netherlands who are studying health care delivery in their Executive Master of Health Administration (MHA) program in partnership with Dartmouth College master’s program in health care delivery science (MHCDS). The teams described both leadership programs as combining business and health policy courses to give health care leaders the skills to create value and improve the quality-of-care delivery in their own organizations. In addition, both programs stress the importance of an overarching vision for a health care program along with continuous learning about the latest and best developments in the field.
To that end they look around the world for best practices and different insights to bring back to their own organizations.
The group sought to refine their understanding of the intersection of health care and homelessness here in the US. They had initially reached out to us prior to the pandemic, but we were not able to host them until this year. Their interest stemmed from their global concern about homelessness, although it is not as visible in The Netherlands as it is here in the US. They shared their eagerness to see Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program as a realistic picture of high-quality US health care delivery in a diverse setting. In addition, they hoped to hear directly from our staff of how people in the US might “fall through the cracks.” They saw BHCHP as a strong example of an organization staffed with highly committed people who constantly innovate and pivot to help vulnerable populations and meet the needs of their patients. The Dutch contingent commented that the US has so many extremes, and they wanted to see them firsthand.
The group visited our flagship site at 780 Albany Street and were quite interested in our integrated model of health care delivered in our respite program, clinics and on the streets. CEO Stephanie Sullivan, Medical Director Peter Smith, MD and Respite Director Omar Marrero led tours and conversations about the history and mission of BHCHP, the financing of the program, the US homeless crisis, and the effects of COVID on our patients, along with explanations of our care model and of challenges of staffing and clinical resources. There was a long discussion of the US overdose epidemic. The Dutch guests noted that although they too have a drug problem in The Netherlands, they do not have the magnitude of the overdoses and deaths that we experience here in the US. The group listened attentively to Michele Whittaker, RN Harm Reduction as she described the vital work of our harm reduction team and passed around her lanyard that held Narcan and pins showing support and solidarity with her patients.
Towards the end of the visit, photographs were taken and the contingent presented us with wooden tulips that had been beautifully hand painted in vibrant colors by some of their Dutch patients who are experiencing homelessness. They asked that we display them in the patient areas of the program as a gesture of friendship from The Netherlands.
After the visit, the Dutch group gave their perspectives on our program, one person said that what stood out to her most about BHCHP was the “unconditional love from staff toward patients and each other.” A lot of heads nodded. She went on and explained that “if you’re a leader, you can’t serve patients well if your staff doesn’t like one another.”