Medicine that Matters
Over 11,000 homeless individuals are cared for by Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program each year. We are committed to ensuring that every one of these individuals has access to comprehensive health care, from preventative dental care to cancer treatment. Our clinicians, case managers, and behavioral health professionals work in more than 35 locations to deliver the highest quality health care to some of our community’s most vulnerable—and most resilient—citizens. BHCHP provides care without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran status, military service, national origin, immigration status, genetic information or marital status.
IMPORTANT COVID-19/MASS & CASS UPDATE (April 2022)
As is the case in the broader community, we are heartened by the drop in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in our practice, both sheltered and unsheltered. We have learned from previous COVID-19 waves how to care for our patients and staff. We continue to work with the City of Boston, the Boston Public Health Commission, the State of Massachusetts, and many other partners to provide vaccination with as few barriers as possible, to conduct surveillance testing for people living in congregate settings, and to quickly isolate those who test positive for COVID. Our shelter partners rely on our medical expertise and deep relationships with patients to advise them on public health best practices, including on COVID-19.
Our staff continues to acutely feel COVID’s impact. Delivering equitable and high quality health care throughout this pandemic has taken its toll on our program. As the shelters have been forced to decongest and many of our patients have dispersed—often to the streets—we continue to seek out patients and provide access to medical care. For the past three years, our amazing harm reduction nurses have been providing services amid a true humanitarian crisis at Boston’s Mass/Cass encampment. Our presence in the encampment grew to 17 staff members, including nurses, case managers, psychiatrists, social workers, and doctors, who administer care in the encampment with a framework of disaster medicine—continually reversing overdoses, administering wound care, working to stop transmission of HIV, bearing witness to unspeakable traumas, and much more—including saving hundreds of lives. Our work at the encampment was extremely difficult—physically and emotionally.
Now that the encampments have been closed, we’re grateful to be working with Mayor Wu and her leadership team, our long-time shelter partners and all our community partners, as unhoused people have been given new and healthier spaces to stay, including transitional supportive housing and low threshold shelter. Our staff continues to provide clinical support for those patients who have moved on to temporary housing. We also share our expertise and provide ongoing training –on harm reduction, wound care, overdose reversal --- to our shelter partners and outside clinicians brought in by the City to help us with this care.
As public health care providers, meeting the needs of this complex population over the years has been emotionally taxing. But, our staff continues to do it every single day-- and we do it with care, clinical expertise, and a profound sense of compassion—always pivoting to meet the needs of our patients, the most vulnerable in our community. Please accept our deepest thanks for your generosity towards our work during this incredibly difficult time. The layered crises of the COVID pandemic and the overdose epidemic have strained our program like never before. It makes all the difference to know you are supporting us in countless ways.
Please view our video below that includes insights from various staff and members of our community about our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It truly underscores the power of our community during this turbulent and unprecedented time. We remain grateful for our BHCHP community of donors, shelter and hospital partners, city and state government, and advocates for their steadfast support in helping us care for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Thank you!
Dr. O'Connell’s collection of stories and essays, written during thirty years of caring for homeless persons in Boston, gently illuminates the humanity and raw courage of those who struggle to survive and find meaning and hope while living on the streets.