Nursing Notes

January 7, 2010

Homeless coalition considering cuts in health care

MENTAL HEALTH OF AMERICA
Image by roberthuffstutter via Flickr
I know that everyone is scrambling to balance their budgets and I am intelligent enough to know that cutbacks in programs are inevitable.  However, cutting entire programs seems like “biting off your nose to spite your face”.  Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to simply scale back all public programs across the board instead of simply demolishing programs that deal with the helpless, the unwanted, the unrepresented?
Nursing has always fought to get adequate care for the needy.  In this period of recession and joblessness, isn’t it our duty to fight for these programs?  Where is our voice in the legislature?  Where is our grass-roots movement to stop victimizing the victims of our times?
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denver and the west

Posted: 12/30/2009 01:00:00 AM MST

Faced with the loss of $3.4 million in state funding, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is considering cuts to programs, including elimination of a mobile clinic that has provided care to more than 2,200 people this year.

The nonprofit organization said Tuesday that it will cut 21 percent of its budget for health and mental- health care by eliminating some services now offered to metro-area homeless.

“This will cost the state and local government more money as these homeless families and individuals are forced into emergency care,” coalition president John Parvensky said.

The nonprofit organization’s board will meet Tuesday to decide which programs to either trim back or ax.

Among the possible cuts:

• Elimination of its mobile health clinic, which travels the metro area caring for the homeless.

• Reduction in hours at its Stout Street Clinic, which provides medical and mental-health care.

• Elimination of a respite program that provides emergency shelter and nursing services for homeless people discharged from hospitals but still needing care.

• Closure of its residential programs for homeless women and for individuals recovering from addictions.

The cuts are coming at a time when homeless advocates say a troubled economy is pushing more people out of homes and onto the streets.

“Our Stout Street Clinic will still be in operation and will still have a staff in place, but we are turning people away as it is, and we will turn away more,” Parvensky said.

Indigent people who can’t get medical help elsewhere frequently find themselves at Denver Health Medical Center.

Hospital spokeswoman Betty Rueda said the elimination of medical services is a concern.

“Any health care services that are no longer available for Denver residents put a little more pressure on Denver Health, which is already at high capacity,” she said.

The state continues to grapple with a budget shortfall that so far has topped $1.5 billion over two years.

Besides cutting funding to the coalition, lawmakers have sliced funding for higher education, delayed the opening of a new prison and wrung savings from state employees through unpaid furloughs.

Parvensky hopes the legislature will eliminate enterprise-zone and other tax credits and funnel some of the savings to the coalition.

Allotments from the state’s settlement of a suit against tobacco companies helped fund some of the coalition’s health programs, he said. However, much of that money has gone into the state’s general fund, and Parvensky would like to get some more of it.

Even if the health care bill now in Congress becomes law, he said, it will be several years before insurance is available for many of the homeless who rely on the Stout Street Clinic.

Patient Dean Werner, 24, said he would tumble into a danger zone where, without the drugs and psychiatric care he receives at the clinic, he would be a threat to himself and others.

“It helps to have the meds; they help keep me centered,” Werner said. “I have odd moments where I just go off to nowhere. It has gotten me in trouble with the law.”

Bobbie Woods, 56, who is treated at the clinic for a range of medical and mental-health problems, said she doesn’t know where she will go if the budget cuts limit her treatment.

“It’s difficult,” she said.

Tom McGhee: 303-954-1671 or tmcghee@denverpost.com

Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14090784#ixzz0bHewxE0X

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