For those who are independent at a wheelchair level or in need of some minor or light assistance, it is difficult to find shelter.
A version of this article was first published September 22, 2020, by HCPro's Revenue Cycle Advisor, a sibling publication to HealthLeaders.
Q: A recent study by the California Lab Policy reported 50% of unsheltered individuals experience "tri-morbidity" (co-occurring physical health, mental health, and substance abuse challenges), compared to just 2% of sheltered individuals. What can case managers do to assist these patients?
A: Helping these individuals find services to meet their needs is an ongoing challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made it harder.
“It’s very difficult for the homeless to find shelter from March through November, as that is when a good percentage of the shelters close,” says Ellen Walker, LCSW, ACSW, manager of social work at West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, Illinois.
There are even more challenges for patients with special needs. For those who are independent at a wheelchair level or in need of some minor or light assistance, it is difficult to find shelter. “Many shelters won't take them if they need any type of assistance or even if they are independent but use a wheelchair, as they are not always wheelchair accessible,” says Walker. “Other issues are those who have developmental disabilities. There are no emergency shelters set up to assist them. It is a huge problem.”
To help these patients, Ellen Fink-Samnick, MSW, ACSW, LCSW, CCM, CRP, author of the HCPro book The Social Determinants of Health: Case Management’s Next Frontier, recommends exploring the following resources:
- Aunt Bertha—The Social Care Network, a website that can help link patients with resources
- Following your local shelters for quarantine updates
- General housing assistance through benefits.gov
- The American Hospital Association
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has outlined a number of resources for providers working with patients who are homeless
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which offers counseling services on housing-related issue
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