Addressing the health and quality of life among vulnerable people experiencing homelessness in Northwest Arkansas

Wednesday, June 1, 2016: 9:00 AM
Skyline II (Hilton Portland)
Kevin Fitzpatrick, PhD (University Professor, Jones Chair in Community, Director of the Community and Family Institute, University of Arkansas)
This paper highlights the ongoing work of a community health outreach program offered annually in Northwest Arkansas since 2010. Our project is a multi-organizational medical and service outreach project designed to meet the health-related needs of those experiencing or vulnerable to homelessness in a multi-county area in Northwest Arkansas. The project is the result of a combined effort of local health care providers: Veteran's Administration of the Ozarks, the Community and Family Institute at the University of Arkansas, the School of Nursing at the University of Arkansas, and 7Hills Homeless Center (the largest homeless service provider in the area). Since 2007, a point-in-time homeless census has been administered in a two-county area in Northwest Arkansas and revealed significant unmet health care needs among the homeless. With funding from the Veteran's Administration of the Ozarks and the donated time of the health care providers, a number of one-day health services were provided. Since 2010, over 3,000 adults experiencing homeless and near-homelessness participated in the event. The data presented in this paper reflect comprehensive data collected on participants, their health assessments, and the service provider participation rates over the past five years. In addition to health care needs, additional services offered included: lunch, haircuts, Legal Aid of Northwest Arkansas, SNAP, Social Security Administration, and Veteran's Administration programs for the homeless. In addition to receiving the above services, participants were screened first with an intake form that represents one piece of the data collection. After intake, all participants were screened by nursing students enrolled in the School of Nursing at the University of Arkansas. Those students recorded blood pressure, glucose, and BMI. If blood pressure or glucose were exceptionally high, those participants were immediately referred to the primary care providers at the event. After health screening, participants selected from a menu of services that included primary health care, optometry, dentistry, podiatry, and flu shots. In the first several years, we did not have a pharmacy onsite, but we did in 2013 and 2014. In most cases, there was a built-in referral system for participants who needed some type of follow-up care. Optometrists did basic eye exam screenings, and if participants needed reading glasses, they were supplied based on a donation from the Veteran's Administration of the Ozarks. If participants needed more complicated eyeglass prescriptions, they were referred to either the local Lions Club chapters. Primary medical care was primarily acute care, and if prescriptions were needed, they were filled pro-bono offsite in the first three years and onsite the last two years by Medical Arts Pharmacy (a local independent pharmacy in Washington County). Dental screening was done and extractions were made available in worst-case scenarios via a local free health clinic. Otherwise, they were referred to several other clinics for comprehensive care follow-up. Data presented in this paper provides insight to who is accessing the service, what health screening risks are presented, what services are offered, and the extent that those services are used for the event.