Central Health gets $1.7M funding boost to help Texans experiencing homelessness

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Central Texas organization is getting an increase in funding to help get more health care services and stability to people experiencing homelessness.

Central Health will have a $1.7 million increase in homeless health care services. The increase will support medical respite, intensive case management and mobile/street medicine teams.

Currently, the organization serves more than 10,000 individuals experiencing homelessness through its Medical Access Program (MAP).

The new funding will help homeless patients with limited transportation, lack of social support, higher prevalence of severe chronic illness and addiction.

“If you don’t have a place to live, statistics show you have worse health outcomes, are at higher risk for chronic conditions, are more likely to use emergency care and have more difficulty getting care when needed,” said Central Health President and CEO Mike Geeslin. “People experiencing homelessness often have trouble accessing care and frequently use emergency department resources — issues that were exacerbated by the pandemic.”

One of the people who have already been helped by the funding is John Minaker. His journey to Austin hasn’t been an easy one. He came from Michigan with his brother to find work. They had a tent and a truck to get around the city, until their vehicle was broken into. That’s when the problems began.

“We knew we were going to be personally homeless, said Minaker. “And I had an accident and was hospitalized.”

His foot got infected which hindered him from finding work.

That’s when he met Laura Mackey, a medical social worker with Central Health. Her team helps people experiencing homelessness who are hospitalized or need medical care. They connect them to doctors, treatment and transportation. Mackey joined Minaker during physical therapy at least once a week and her team helped him transition into housing.

“I wanted to make sure he knows someone is checking in, because even though he is on his own, I still feel like someone needs to make sure he’s supported,” Mackey said.

She helped connect him to the services he needed to heal and get back on his feet.

“I’m starting over again and Laura has helped me significantly,” Minaker said. “We are still working. I’m not 100% but without her I’d still be at ground zero. She’s almost like a sister I never had.”

That type of support from Central Health’s Homeless Health Care Services is expanding this month through the additional funding approved by Travis County Commissioners Court. Mackey says this funding ensures that people are not going back on the streets and regressing in their care or regressing with their mental health.

Central Health’s planned investments in addition to the homeless services expansion, include:

  • Increasing access to short-term residential care that allows people experiencing homelessness to rest and recover in a safe environmental while accessing necessary medical care
  • Funding additional street medicine and mobile units to meet homeless patients where they live
  • Expanding case management and community health workers
  • Expanding clinical capacity to provide routine outpatient dialysis and avoid unnecessary hospitalizations
  • Improving care for diabetic patients
  • Investing in improved infectious disease, psychiatry and behavioral health services at CommUnityCare Health Center’s primary care clinics
  • Alcohol use peer support

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Austin-Travis County

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