Health Care for the Homeless
What is striking to me about this time of year is that it is marked so poignantly by transitions and new life! In the life of the Catholic Church, as well as all Christian denominations, we journey through the forty days of Lent, an opportunity to reflect on our spiritual lives and the changes we need to make to draw closer to God and others. Our prayer, fasting and almsgiving of Lent lead us to the joy of the Easter season: the hope of resurrection and new life.
In the world of nature, winter is drawing to a close with an end to the cold and snowy weather. We wait in anticipation for the spring season, a time of warmer weather and the budding of new life all around us! Many of us will tend to our gardens and flower beds to be involved in that process of new life.
Transition and new life! At Catholic Medical Center (CMC) we are involved in those transitions to new life every day. One of our programs that gets little attention, but witnesses this on a daily basis, is our Mobile Community Health Team/Health Care for the Homeless (HCH). HCH is staffed by employees of CMC and has provided health care for individuals dealing with homelessness in the Greater Manchester area since 1988. The staff of physicians, nurse practioners, nurses and mental health counselors provides primary care and behavioral health services at New Horizons for New Hampshire, Families in Transition, as well as through street outreach. In 2016, the staff of the Mobile Community Health Team had 6,056 visits with 1,627 individuals, which is 367 more individuals than 2015.
For one of their patients, this time of transition has been a monumental one. Having dealt with homelessness for 10 years for a multitude of reasons, he has had an occasional relationship with HCH. This past summer and fall he faced some major health issues. Living in an alley, he was found by one of our HCH staff just as his condition was becoming life threatening. During his most recent hospital stay, a program of care was developed to resolve his health issues and provide him medical and behavioral health services upon discharge. The HCH staff met with him throughout his hospital stay, and continued to do so upon discharge.
This transition for him has been miraculous. His health has never been better. He meets with the team five days a week. He has committed himself to addressing his mental health issues. He no longer lives in an alley and is on a wait list for an apartment through the Housing First program. As he has been recently telling his HCH outreach worker: “You have saved my life; I would be dead without you.”
For this patient and many others of the Mobile Community Health Team/Health Care for the Homeless, new life is possible not only in the spring, but throughout the year.
Happy Easter to you and your family!
Dr. Joseph Pepe is the president and CEO of CMC Healthcare System: Catholic Medical Center, New England Heart & Vascular Institute, and several subsidiaries. He and his wife reside in Manchester, N.H.