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Innovative health care for homeless in Seattle

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Palliative care project for the homeless is unique in the U.S.

Kaiser Health News

Seattle is the site of an innovative approach to both homelessness and health care. Being homeless is tough enough. Recently, homeless people are more likely to be over fifty years old. That’s when a lot of health issues become more than nuisances. Visiting the doctor or the pharmacy is too difficult, so many only seek help when they must by visiting emergency rooms.

“Since January 2014, the pilot project run by Seattle/King County Health Care for Homeless Network and UW Medicine’s Harboview Medical Center has served more than 100 seriously ill men and women in the Seattle area, tracking them down at shelters and drop-in clinics, in tents under bridges and parked cars.“ - Kaiser Health News

By going to the patients where they live, the members of the project are able to provide the kind of care that makes most sense for their space. A different type of care is need for someone living in a tent versus someone living in an apartment. Leave your tent and you may lose your last few belongings. A lack of electricity means treatments can’t require refrigeration.

Across the country, homeless programs are having to shift their policies and procedures because there’s been a 50 percent rise in the number of homeless people over fifty who need health care. This project is the first in the nation and has already seen a 50 percent reduction in emergency room visits from the patients.

Helping people get healthy can help them get past homelessness. Removing such a big hurdle in their lives helps them get back into the mainstream. It is a pilot project, so it is only funded through 2017.