Far from the comfort and familiarity of exam rooms, Tower Health Medical Group Physicians and Access Services’ Street Outreach team venture out into the community to provide Street Medicine. Street Medicine works to provide primary and urgent care to the homeless in Pottstown wherever they reside, whether that be a tent in the woods, a homeless shelter, or on the streets. Together, Tower Health Medical Group and Access Services are exploring the complexities of care coordination for this most vulnerable population.
“The program’s goal is to increase access to healthcare for the homeless, a top health need identified in the 2019 Pottstown Hospital Community Health Needs Assessment,” said Casey Fenoglio, Community Wellness Program Manager at Pottstown Hospital – Tower Health. “An individual’s housing status should not impact their health or access to healthcare, and yet we know homelessness increases existing health problems and causes new health conditions. By actively working to remove common barriers to accessing healthcare, we hope to improve the health of our most vulnerable population in the community,” said Fenoglio.
The physicians estimate there are about 50 homeless individuals in Pottstown, and Access Services has been working for many years to address their social needs. Through Street Outreach, Access Services provides individuals experiencing homelessness across Montgomery County with resources that help them find shelter, food, and healthcare. However, instead of just providing healthcare resources, Street Medicine now provides direct care outside and onsite. Mark Boorse, Director of Program Development at Access Services stated, “For me, this is personal. I’ve stood with people at their tent, both of us knowing they aren’t well, and watched the decisions they have had to make. ‘Am I sick enough to go to the ER? Am I well enough to walk that distance? Can I stash my things safely or do I need to carry them with me? How will I get back at the end of the day? Will I miss out getting food today?’ This is a gap most of us never consider when we go to the doctor. Street Medicine is beginning to bridge that gap for folks who have needed it for quite some time.”
With funding from the HealthSpark Foundation, Access Services, and Pottstown Hospital, Street Medicine has served 20 unique individuals since it began in January 2021. The Street Medicine team heads out into the community every Tuesday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and word is starting to spread about the program.
“This is awesome! I have waited a long time to see a doctor,” said one Street Medicine patient. Another patient’s wife noted, “My husband has needed to see a doctor for a while. He’s been sick, and I am worried. Thank you so much for your help.” Fenoglio shared, “The Street Medicine team has followed up with her husband several times since his first encounter, [who] now is receiving ongoing care at Pottstown Hospital.”
Street Medicine doesn’t stop at the visits on the street. Tower Health Medical Group and Access Services are invested in the continued health of the community and recognize the importance of ongoing primary and specialty care. Street Medicine works to build trust among the homeless and healthcare providers to bridge the gap to individual engagement with Community Health and Dental Care, a local non-profit health center. Community Health and Dental Care has a flexible, holistic model which provides primary care, dental care, behavioral healthcare, and eye care all in one location. The program is currently working to add a telemedicine component to support engagement with Community Health and Dental Care and expand program capacity.
If you are interested in donating to the Street Medicine program, please contact Casey Fenoglio at 610-327-7035 or Casey.Fenoglio@towerhealth.org.
Pictured is Dr. Erin Tuffy, Emergency Medicine Physician at Pottstown Hospital, entering Mission First in Pottstown as part of the Street Medicine program. Her backpack is full of medical supplies needed to treat the homeless population where they reside.
About Pottstown Hospital
Located in Pottstown, Pa., and a member of Tower Health, Pottstown Hospital is a 219-bed hospital that offers a full range of health services, including inpatient and outpatient, medical and surgical, and diagnostic and emergency care. Accredited by The Joint Commission, Pottstown Hospital has been recognized for its quality outcomes and clinical expertise across many service lines. The hospital is Joint Commission-certified for hip and knee replacement and is also an accredited Chest Pain Center. Recently, Pottstown Hospital was recognized as a recipient of the 2020 Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Gold Plus & Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite Award by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. For more information, visit Pottstown Hospital.