Health Care for the Homeless Recognized Today During National Health Center Week

Today during National Health Center Week 2011, the health care needs of homeless individuals are being recognized.  People without permanent housing often have complex health issues, and accessing health care can be difficult.  As a result, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council reports that the rates of serious illnesses and injuries among homeless people are three to six times the rates of other people.

According to The State of Homelessness in Michigan 2009 Annual Summary, a projected 100,001 people experienced homelessness in Michigan in 2009.  Forty-seven percent of those individuals reported being homeless for the first time.  Thirty –nine percent of the homeless in Michigan are children in families or unaccompanied youth.

America’s Health Centers serve nearly 940,000 people who are homeless across the country, including over 17,800 homeless individuals in Michigan.  They provide quality, comprehensive health care at traditional Health Center sites as well as shelter-based sites, and they take health care services to locations where homeless individuals are, such as streets, parks, and soup kitchens via mobile units.

Modeled after a demonstration project jointly funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Pew Charitable Trust, the Health Care for the Homeless program was initiated in 1987 as part of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act.  In 1996, Congress passed the Health Centers Consolidation Act, which joined the Health Care for the Homeless program with the community, migrant, and public housing primary health care programs under a single authority called the Consolidated Health Center Program.

The Health Care for the Homeless program provides federal grants to non-profit organizations, including Community Health Centers, to deliver primary health care, substance abuse and mental health services, patient management, and education to homeless individuals and families.  Health Care for the Homeless programs also assist individuals in accessing housing, Medicaid, and other needed services and benefits.

To learn more about National Health Center Week, visit www.healthcenterweek.org.

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