Plans are underway to address the medical needs of homeless people in Salt Lake County who have chronic illnesses. New homeless shelters coming online in the next couple of years will provide on-site access to some medical services.
Homeless people who happen to have chronic conditions like diabetes have an especially hard time living on the streets. Kim Correa is executive director of The INN Between, a hospice for the homeless. She’s seen an increase in referrals to her organization for people who have chronic conditions like diabetes, lung or kidney disease. But, she says her organization prioritizes people who are either terminal or have acute illnesses that require only temporary respite.
“Specifically those three situations are very difficult to manage on the street because you can’t deliver oxygen tanks to the park,” Correa says. “You can’t deliver oxygen tanks to the shelters. People need a place to plug in medical equipment. They need an assigned bed. They need an assigned bed. They need transportation to dialysis clinics.”
They also have to properly store medications like insulin. Correa would like to see one of the three new shelter/resource centers designated for people with chronic illnesses. But that’s not in the plan.
Laura Michalski is Executive Director of 4th Street Clinic. She says the plan is to put registered nurses at each of the new shelters who can assess medical needs. She’s also seeking state funding for a mobile medical unit, where a roving healthcare provider can prescribe medications and even enroll people in Medicaid.
“The bigger solution is number one affordable housing, number two expansion of Medicaid,” Michalski says. “But if we don’t have those, I think making sure that you have the appropriate resources at those new resource centers.”
Michalski says the clinic is testing out the model this summer, putting registered nurses at YWCA, Volunteers of America, The Road Home and First Step House.