March 26, 2015
By Kenny Lin, MD
Common Sense Family Doctor Blog
I’ve been a fan of Dr. Mitchell Katz, director of the safety net health care system in Los Angeles County, California, since reading his 2013 editorial arguing we should stop offering prostate-specific antigen screening because the substantial resources devoted to testing and subsequent diagnostic workups could be better utilized to provide high-value care. I had the chance to hear Dr. Katz speak in person a few weeks ago at the Lown Institute’s Road to Right Care conference on another topic that I’ve written about before: providing supportive housing to chronically homeless persons.
As profiled in a feature article in the March/April issue of Mother Jones, the “Housing First” approach recognizes that many, if not most people who are chronically homeless struggle with mental illness or addiction. Both of these health problems, if inadequately treated, are likely to land patients in two of the most expensive temporary housing situations imaginable: hospital emergency rooms or prisons. Provided with a place to live and convenient access to counseling and health services, however, these individuals often thrive, at a fraction of the costs they would have incurred otherwise.
Housing First has been as successful in Salt Lake City as in New York City, and is now improving population health in Los Angeles. As Dr. Katz put it simply in his presentation, “There are a lot of chronic health problems that we can’t cure. Chronic homelessness isn’t one of them. Provide supportive housing. Problem cured.”
To read the full article, click here.