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LA Health Plan Launches Program to Improve Healthcare for the Homeless

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   August 25, 2023

The health plan is issuing more than $4 million in grants to nine organizations through an innovative program to improve access to care and services for more than 75,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County.

A Los Angeles-based health plan is investing more than $4 million in an innovative program to improve healthcare access and services for the region's growing homeless population.

L.A. Care, which serves close to 3 million people in Los Angeles County, is awarding grants of up to $500,000 to nine organizations through its Street Medicine Initiative. The organizations will use the money to improve healthcare access through care management, preventive screenings, vaccinations, mental health screenings, and connections to housing and social services.

“L.A. Care’s Street Medicine Initiative will increase the number of street team members and services offered to the most vulnerable people in our communities, many of whom are L.A. Care members,” John Baackes, the health plan's CEO, said in a press release. “A secondary purpose of this initiative is to assist people experiencing homelessness with their Medi-Cal applications. The last thing we want is for people to needlessly lose health coverage simply because there was no address to send their renewal packet.”

The effort targets a care gap that affects the entire healthcare ecosystem. Without good access to care and other services, homeless populations can experience ever-worsening clinical outcomes, including serious chronic disease and several mental health issues. This, in turn, places a strain on public health agencies, community health clinics, and health systems, many of whom don’t see these patients until it's too late to help them.

The need for improved healthcare access is particularly acute in Los Angeles County, which declared a State of Emergency on Homelessness this past June. Officials estimate more than 75,500 residents are classified as homeless, an increase of 9% in just one year.

Funding for the program will come from California's Housing and Homelessness Incentive Program (HHIP), which was launched by the state with matching funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. HHIP is a voluntary incentive program enabling Medi-Cal managed care plans to receive reimbursement for programs that address social determinants of health.

The nine organizations receiving funding are:

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, Telehealth, Supply Chain and Pharma for HealthLeaders.


Los Angeles County declared a State of Emergency on Homelessness in June, identifying a crisis that affects the entire healthcare ecosystem.

The grants issued through the Street Medicine Initiative will go toward programs that provide care management, preventive screenings, mental health evaluations, vaccinations, and links to social and housing resources.

This program aims to improve clinical outcomes for more than 75,000 residents, reducing the strain on public health agencies, community health clinics, and health systems who see the effects in their waiting rooms and ERs.

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