Monday, April 29, 2019

You've Seen Her....or Have You?

You’ve seen her, probably more than once….that lady walking down the street screaming at everyone in her path. She’s dirty. She smells bad. Her clothes are tattered and she’s always carrying a bag of mystery items.

You’ve seen her. You may have crossed the street when you saw her walking toward you so you didn’t have to make eye contact.  Or maybe it was the smell that led you to seek a different path to your destination.

You’ve seen her.

But here’s what you didn’t see.

You didn’t see the undiagnosed mental illness screaming inside her head. You didn’t see how she wants to get off the street but can’t afford the utility deposit, or first and last month’s rent. You surely didn’t see her get raped last night, even though the frequency at which assault happens to women on the street would make your skin crawl.  And you didn’t see her struggling to get clean while surrounded by street friends that use on a daily basis.

Every person living on the street is more than meets the eye. Every story is a little different, but rest assured that behind every un-showered fa├žade, is a human being. Homeless individuals have become more visible in our community during the past few years. Tent camps popping up along the river and large groups congregating in the park are tough to miss.

We see them. Every day.

What we fail to see is their humanity. What we fail to see is that each complex human has a different prescription for health and healing. For one person, a safe place to sleep each night might be enough to put them on a trajectory toward hope. For another, the silence and solitude of sleeping indoors may feel less safe than camping with a group of trusted friends.  And a bed alone doesn’t begin to address chronic health conditions, low-literacy, addiction, trauma, or other issues that are barriers to health and self-sufficiency. And even when someone is ready to push through all those challenges, they face a monumental hurdle trying to compete for housing in a rental market with less than 5% vacancy. 

So how do we address these human complexities? With complex Care.

Complex Care is a person-centered, interdisciplinary approach to healing. It brings together healthcare, behavioral health, social service and other community systems to better address the full spectrum of human health. By developing authentic relationships with patients, providers are better able to understand and assist with the diverse challenges of each individual.

What does this look like in action?

It could look like John, who initially dropped into Hill Country’s CARE Center to have a cup of coffee and relax on the couch, and eventually became comfortable enough to talk with the staff about his struggle with PTSD. Through therapy and supportive relationships, he gained the confidence and desire to go back to school and pursue a career in mental health.

It could look like Christine who was referred to the WholePerson Care team after visiting the ER for chronic open sores. With transportation assistance and a supportive case manager, Christine was able to keep her doctor’s appointments, properly manage her medical conditions, and enroll in a drug treatment program. When she relapsed, her WPC Manager was there to help her get back on track, and help her secure safe, stable housing.

Complex Care involves seeing people for who they are, meeting them where they are at, and partnering with them on their journey to health. This approach improves patient outcomes, decreases hospitalizations and significantly reduces the healthcare and law enforcement costs of responding to homelessness.

We see the homeless issue every day. Complaining and incarcerating does nothing to solve this challenge. Complex Care is a cost-effective, humane approach that offers real solutions for a broad spectrum of needs.

For more information about complex care, visit: