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Public Counsel and Healthcare Experts Put Focus on Homeless Care

People with chronic illnesses living on the streets or in homeless shelters face huge challenges to health. 

On June 10, 2013, Public Counsel hosted a Regional Hospital Symposium to focus on this critical issue for Southern California, which has the nation's largest homeless population.

Representatives from more than 30 major hospitals in Southern California heard from local and national leaders about the opportunities for better care for homeless patients with chronic illnesses.

Public Counsel President Hernan Vera said, "Hospitals have new financial imperatives and incentives under the Affordable Care Act to reduce readmissions and to link with outpatient services to manage chronic diseases."

Read more in the Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-homeless-health-20130611,0,545027.story

"The Affordable Care Act ought to elevate the dignity and worth of every human being," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Los Angeles County hospitals and clinics see more than 2,300 homeless patients every year, at an annual cost of more $30,000 per patient. Supportive housing costs less at 1/10 the price of a hospital stay, according to county data.

Health law expert Henry Fader of Pepper Hamilton LLP said the Affordable Care Act includes both financial penalties for readmissions of patients with chronic illnesses, and incentives to improve care and communication with patients.

"Discharge planning is more than just writing something down, it's trying to find a place for someone and get them resources," said Fader.

"The challenge in healthcare today is making the financials work" while improving care, said healthcare expert Paul DeMuro of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt.

He said Southern California could be a national leader on sharing of data between hospitals and aftercare providers to improve care.

"People are going to be coming here to see how we solve the problem, but technology has to be part of it," DeMuro said.

Paul Gregorson, chief medical officer of JWCH and an expert on homeless health care, said homeless patients face numerous barriers besides their illnesses.

Better communication between hospitals, patients and aftercare providers is a critical missing piece. He called for a formal care transition model for Los Angeles, as well as training and support for hospital staff.

Implementing the Affordable Care Act "means more homeless patients who had fallen through the cracks will get placed in a permanent medical home," Gregorson said.

The Los Angeles Regional Hospital Symposium Steering Committee:

George Colman, Esq.
Stephenson, Acquisto & Colman

Michael Arnold
Executive Director
Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA)

Marc Futernick, MD
Medical Director of Emergency Services
California Hospital Medical Center

Paul Gregerson, MD, MBA
Chief Medical Officer
John Wesley Community Health Institute, Inc.

Carolyn Phillips, JD
Deputy City Attorney
Los Angeles City Attorney's Office
Former Directing Attorney
Early Education Project and Homelessness Prevention Law Project
Public Counsel