The Coast News Group
Homeless residents Laurie, James Neal and Jacob the dog hang out by the Carlsbad Village Train Station. Photo by Shana Thompson

County seeks participants for homeless health care program

REGION — San Diego County is actively seeking homeless individuals to take advantage of a budding health care program intended to save public money, officials announced today.

Whole Person Wellness, which launched in January, funds access to behavioral and physical health services for frequent emergency care services users in order to shave Medi-Cal costs.

Officials are targeting 1,049 chronically homeless individuals, identified during a 2016 count, who match such criteria. So far, 60 people have signed up for the program and 180 more are in the process of enrolling, according to the county.

“We’re looking for chronically homeless people with multiple symptoms to help them better manage their care,” said Nick Macchione, director of the county Health and Human Services Agency, which manages the program. “Our goal is to improve their health, help them improve their stability and reduce costs.”

Teams comprised of a social worker and peer support specialist — assisted by a licensed clinician and housing navigator — have started working with local hospitals, jails, homeless outreach teams and other service providers to find people who may benefit from the program, including those with a physical ailment or who are experiencing mental or substance abuse issues.

After enrolling, participants work with service teams to secure a regular medical provider and permanent housing before being connected with behavioral and social services. Teams monitor progress and are able to assist individuals for up to two years.

“The case managers can help them navigate the maze of services, connect them to temporary housing, a permanent medical provider and other services they may need. As people become more stable, the case managers will still be there for them, in case they need them,” said Susan Bower, assistant director of integrated services for the Health and Human Services Agency.

The county appropriated $22 million toward the program. Matched by a federal grant, funds will allow the program to continue over the next two years.

Officials contracted Exodus Recovery to work with homeless people in North County, while People Assisting the Homeless covers the rest of the region.