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AMA Backs Policies to Help Homeless Americans

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

During its annual meeting this week in Chicago, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted new recommendations regarding the health and social needs of homeless Americans.

Under this policy, the AMA pledged to support the human and civil rights of individuals who experience homelessness (with a strong focus on opposing laws that criminalize homelessness), to work on comprehensive plans to help homeless individuals who present to the ED, and to assist local stakeholders in their efforts to provide the necessary health and social services to this at-risk population.

“We know that many factors contribute to adverse health outcomes for homeless individuals. To help improve the health and well-being of people who experience homelessness, we must take a multipronged approach that includes collaboration among the community, government, social service organizations, and physicians,” AMA Board Member E. Scott Ferguson, MD, said in a statement. “With homeless individuals relying heavily on emergency departments as their regular source of care, it is especially important that we reach beyond the hospital and into the community to offer clinical and social services to these vulnerable patients.”

On any night in America, more than 550,000 people experience homelessness. Many stay in designated shelters or other housing (such as with friends or family), but 35% stay outdoors, which puts this group at a higher risk of experiencing health issues. Nearly two-thirds of homeless individuals rely on EDs as a primary healthcare resource vs. 20% of the general population. Those who experience homelessness are hospitalized at a rate nearly quadruple that of those with housing.

The May 2019 issue of Case Management Advisor includes four articles about how local communities are working with healthcare providers to help homeless individuals access important services. The cover article is about groups who help patients find housing in places like Illinois and New Jersey. In addition to finding housing, other articles in the issue are about addressing additional root causes, such as substance abuse and mental issues, that can contribute to homelessness and turn these individuals into frequent ED users.