Health Care for All: Q&A with John Lozier of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council
Healthcare for the Homeless (HCH) clinics provide health care to people who are homeless, regardless of ability to pay. HCH believes that everyone has the right to health care and housing. John N. Lozier is the Executive Director of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. In this Q&A, John shares HCH’s human rights approach to ending homelessness.
Q. What are Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) programs?
HCH programs deliver primary health care to people who are homeless. Services are provided at the same high-quality level of care that most people get from their own doctors. People receiving HCH services often have serious, multiple diagnoses. In response, HCH programs are multidisciplinary. We also use outreach to address many barriers to health care. For people who are homeless, these barriers include poverty and the lack of access to mainstream services. We believe everyone has the right to health care and housing.
Q. What services do HCH programs provide to consumers?
We try to be very consumer-oriented. Consumers can expect to be seen by us whether they can pay or not. They can expect to be treated with respect and to participate in decisions about their care.
People who are homeless get sick with common illnesses much more often than people who are housed. These illnesses may include upper respiratory infections, circulatory problems, diabetes, or wounds. HCH provides primary health care, including diagnosis and treatment for common illnesses. We also provide behavioral health care, addiction treatment, and mental health services. HCH also offers other services such as access to specialty care, transportation, housing, and medical respite care. Our services reflect a wide range of needs.
Q. How do you provide medical respite care?
The respite care program is a new service developed by HCH programs and local shelters. We identify people who are too ill to be on the street, but not sick enough to be hospitalized. Medical respite care offers a safe and cost effective place to recover and receive medical and nursing care, away from the streets. It keeps people out of emergency rooms and safe from harm. There are over forty HCH medical respite care programs across the country.
Q. How are HCH programs funded?
We are primarily funded by grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HRSA funds 211 HCH grantees. We also receive funding at the state and local level, and donations. The National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC) gives technical assistance to communities trying to obtain HRSA grants or to organize without federal support. Federal grants are only a fraction of the amount required to create a well-rounded program. Unfortunately, most people who are homeless are not covered by health insurance, which limits the amount of Medicaid dollars that are billable.
Q. What drives the HCH mission?
The National Health Care for the Homeless Council provides aid and support to the member HCH organizations around the country. The Council is committed to a human rights approach to ending homelessness. We believe that everyone has the right to healthcare and that housing is key. Consumers are at the heart of our work. Individual self-determination is fundamental to the HCH philosophy of care.
Q. How can someone find a local HCH program?
There are HCH programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Almost all major cities in the US have at least one HCH program. There is a directory of HCH programs on the National Health Care for the Homeless Council website. People can also find health centers in their communities on the HRSA website.
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