There is a race to admit “street medicine” in California to provide adequate care for the homeless in Los Angeles.

Last year, nearly 23% of the roughly 1,300 homeless people who died in Los Angeles died of underlying health problems. According to the Street Medicine Institute, even for homeless people with health insurance, 73% have never seen a health care provider.

Assembly Bill 369 (AB 369), a street medicine bill introduced by California Sen. Sydney Kamlager, seeks to remove barriers to Los Angeles’ homeless population by allowing care to be provided outside of the walls of traditional medical clinics.

This would include medical care provided on the streets, as well as shelter-based care and services for people residing in transitional housing.

“This is a bill on humanity and on the salvation of Californians. It is a crisis that people are homeless and it is a reality that many people who are homeless are also ill and need medical care like anyone else, ”said Kamlager.

Dr. Brett Feldman, director of street medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, and his wife, Corrine, a medical assistant, are currently the healthcare providers for a homeless Los Angeles resident named Doug.

Doug lives in a tent overlooking a freeway in downtown Los Angeles as he tries to manage his diabetes and high blood pressure. Feldmen and Corrine see him twice a week to refill his prescriptions, monitor his blood pressure, and monitor his general well-being.

“Street medicine recognizes that the homeless cannot access health care like the rest of us,” Feldman told LAist.

In 2018, the California Department of Health Care Services established the Medi-Cal Health Homes Program to serve eligible Medi-Cal beneficiaries with complex needs and chronic conditions.

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A 2020 UCLA study evaluating the program showed that of all those eligible, 13% successfully enrolled, but only 3.5% experienced homelessness.

Feldman said this only highlights the difficulty of caring for the homeless from within four walls.

Doug told LAist that street medicine has been a blessing in his life, and without Feldman and Corrine, he probably wouldn’t take any medications and would be more susceptible to infections.

Street medicine teams like Feldman’s also treat people in transitional housing, including Project Roomkey, a joint effort by the state, county, and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, to convert hotel rooms. and motel in homes.

According to the Street Medicine Institute, the practice has been shown to reduce expensive hospital admissions by two-thirds, but Medi-Cal does not recognize the “street” as a place to provide care for people like Doug, who overlook the freeway, or to who live in homes like Project Roomkey.

Kamlager said AB 369 will allow doctors to go out and meet homeless people where they are and be reimbursed for their services, and that it is “up to” Gov. Gavin Newsome to sign the bill if it passes.

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“We should all be treated the same and everyone should have access to medical care, and have a doctor who cares enough and is willing to take the necessary steps to receive treatment,” Kamlager told Laist.

The California State Senate is currently debating the bill, and it should land on Governor Newsom’s desk for approval by Oct. 10, the last day this year’s legislation can become law.




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