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Cynthia Telles on Increasing Medical Care for Homeless Populations Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

LOS ANGELES, CA / ACCESSWIRE / April 13, 2020 / In an ongoing effort to assist with the widespread economic and public health impacts of COVID-19, Kaiser Permanente and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (National HCH Council) have partnered to contribute $1 million to expand medical care to homeless populations across the nation, spanning both prevention and treatment of the novel coronavirus.

"This commitment is core to our mission to improve the health of our members and communities, and it remains a priority during the most trying of times," said Cynthia Telles, PhD, Community Health Committee Chair for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals Boards of Directors.

Kaiser Permanente and the National HCH Council are working to ensure funds assist locations with the largest homeless populations across the nation, including areas within California, Washington and Oregon. According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, as of January 2019, California had an estimated 151,278 individuals experiencing homelessness on any given day, followed by 21,577 in Washington and 15,876 in Oregon. The $1 million financial commitment from Kaiser Permanente and the National HCH Council will allow selected organizations in these regions to immediately distribute resources and directly assist the communities in their areas.

"As an integrated health care system, Kaiser Permanente strives to create resources so that all of our community members-particularly the most vulnerable and at-risk-can be cared for," said Dr. Cynthia Telles. "We take a very collaborative approach to ensure we are supporting organizations that deploy community solutions and have direct community relationships to best make an immediate and long-term impact."

Social distancing measures, isolation and proper hygiene are essential tools to thwart the spread of the coronavirus. However, these precautions are incredibly difficult for people living without permanent and stable housing to adhere to, leaving them particularly vulnerable to the risk factors of the virus. According to guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Lack of housing contributes to poor health outcomes, and linkage to permanent housing should continue to be a priority."

While some may be able to seek refuge in shelters, once homeless shelters become too crowded, social distancing measures are not effective. Concurrently, outdoor settings don't provide the access to hygiene or protection needed to adequately reduce the risk of contracting any illnesses. The financial commitment from Kaiser Permanente and the National HCH Council will help to tackle these issues head-on. Organizations slated to receive funding thus far include Homeless Health Care Los Angeles, Destination Home in Santa Clara County, Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness, and the Central City Concern in Portland, Oregon.

"While Kaiser Permanente has been working on ending chronic homelessness for years, we understand the necessity for assistance has grown exponentially amidst this pandemic," said Dr. Cynthia Telles. "We know that we cannot successfully improve community health without working to advance the economic, social, and environmental conditions of our homeless communities as well."

In addition to its collaboration with the National HCH Council, Kaiser Permanente is also partnering with organizations to advocate for federal funding for homeless navigation services, emergency housing assistance, and additional funding to housing authorities and housing assistance providers.

Further, as the novel coronavirus continues to expand, Kaiser Permanente and the National HCH Council are steadily monitoring its impact to identify additional programs and regions to support.

For more information about Kaiser Permanente's community health work, review the organization's most recent Community Health Needs Assessments at https://healthy.kaiserpermanente.org/static/health/annual_reports/chsnapshot2018/ or reach out to John Nelson at John.E.Nelson@kp.org.

SOURCE: Kaiser Permanente

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