Venice Family Clinic Expands Homeless Health Care Services in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic - Update 7/6/20

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July 06, 2020
Nonprofit Community Health Center’s Street Medicine Teams Help with Testing and Provide Care in New Shelter and
Project Roomkey Sites
LOS ANGELES – (July 6, 2020) – Venice Family Clinic, a nonprofit community health center that serves nearly 28,000 people in need across Los Angeles, has expanded the outreach of its homeless health care services during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide testing and medical care for unsheltered patients living on the streets, in a newly established shelter and at Project Roomkey sites.
Venice Family Clinic, a leader in providing street medicine with nine health care teams dedicated to serving people living on the streets, has extended its care to people living in a shelter the City of Los Angeles established in Westchester in response to the pandemic. The Clinic’s health care professionals are also providing COVID-19 testing for unsheltered individuals at the Clinic, as well as collaborating with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services to do COVID-19 testing in homeless encampments and congregate living sites on the Westside.
In addition, the Clinic’s health care professionals are providing care at three hotels and motels in Venice, Century City and Lawndale that are part of Project Roomkey, a program that seeks to slow the spread of COVID-19 by providing temporary housing in hotels and motels for vulnerable people experiencing homelessness.
“We have expanded the outreach of homeless health care services as the state, county and city of Los Angeles have expanded housing options for unsheltered people to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Evonne Biggs, Venice Family Clinic’s program manager for homeless services and health equity. “Getting unsheltered people into a stable environment where they can receive health care and be enrolled in health insurance means increased opportunities to improve their health.”
Venice Family Clinic’s Director of Homeless Services Dr. Coley King said the high death rate among people experiencing homelessness underscores the importance of getting them access to housing and comprehensive medical care.
“People experiencing homelessness die almost 30 years younger than the rest of us,” he said. “We may live to the age of 80, but they may barely make it to 50. That is probably the worst part of my job. I know at least 25 people experiencing homelessness who died last year, and at least six more who have died this year from causes other than COVID-19. Housing is health care and, without it, unsheltered people are more likely to develop chronic and often fatal conditions at a far earlier age than people who have a home.”
The 2020 Los Angeles County Homeless Count, a point-in-time measure that was completed in January, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, recently reported that there were 66,433 people in Los Angeles County experiencing homelessness, a 12.7% rise from last year’s count. The city of Los Angeles saw a 14.2% rise to 41,290. The survey found that Los Angeles’ westside, where Venice Family Clinic provides health care at 12 locations, is home to 6,009 individuals experiencing homelessness.
“Getting unsheltered patients into stable housing can make an enormous difference in their mental and physical health,” Dr. King said. “Funding that was made available because of the COVID-19 pandemic has helped secure some of the housing they need, and we have been able to help get their medical situations stabilized once they are off the streets. But there are still far too many people living on the streets and in ill health. There is much more work that needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable among us, especially in times like these.”


Venice Family Clinic Resumes In-Person Appointments for Routine Health Care

After Relying on Telehealth for Most Consultations During COVID-19 Pandemic, New Precautions in Place Allow Providers to Safely See More Patients in Person 
LOS ANGELES – (June 15, 2020)  Venice Family Clinic, a nonprofit community health center that serves nearly 28,000 people in need, announced today that it is resuming in-person appointments for routine health care after relying on telehealth for the vast majority of its consultations since Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the March 19 stay-at-home order to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Venice Family Clinic has continued to provide in-person appointments for patients who had urgent needs, and it relied on telephones for appointments with patients who couldn’t come to the Clinic or didn’t need to be seen in person. With the governor moving forward to reopen the state’s economy, Venice Family Clinic is now encouraging some patients to resume in-person visits and vision care. The Clinic is also working to resume dental services soon.
“While we have been incredibly successful in expanding our telehealth service to provide comprehensive care, we want our patients to know they can safely return to Venice Family Clinic to get the type of care that can only be provided in person, such as vision care, vaccinations and well-child visits. This also includes in-person assessments for chronic diseases, such as heart failure and advanced kidney disease,” said Dr. Despina Kayichian, Venice Family Clinic chief medical officer. “We don’t want patients to further delay vaccinations and the other in-person care they need because delays could put their health at risk.”
The Clinic has adopted new precautions to protect patients’ and staff’s health and safety, including requiring temperature checks before entering its sites, face coverings for all patients and staff and at least six feet of separation from non-household members while in the waiting rooms or other shared patient areas. The Clinic has also established traffic patterns inside and outside its clinics to accommodate COVID-19 physical distancing requirements, and it has increased disinfection and sanitation of frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs and counter tops. Patients believed to be infected with COVID-19 will be kept apart from other patients, as will any other patients with potentially contagious diseases.
“Our top priority is the health and safety of our patients and our staff,” said Kayichian. “I applaud our team of health care professionals for quickly adapting to the use of telephones for consulting with patients at the outset of the pandemic so that they could continue to provide high-quality, comprehensive care. We will continue to use telehealth for services that can be easily conducted over the phone.”
The Clinic had used telehealth in the past to help patients managing chronic diseases – such as diabetes and high-blood pressure – to monitor their health. It expanded its use of telehealth after the agencies that administer Medicare, which provides insurance coverage to people age 65 or older, and Medi-Cal, which provides insurance coverage to low-income Californians, announced in March that they would reimburse health care providers for telehealth visits during the pandemic. Several private insurers subsequently announced similar policies. Telehealth currently accounts for 76% of the Clinic’s billable appointments.
But neither Medicare nor Medi-Cal, which provides coverage for one in three Californians, has said they will continue to pay for telehealth services when the emergency ends. Venice Family Clinic is urging the federal and state governments to make a commitment now to continue to reimburse for telehealth services after the public health emergency ends because these services help expand health care access for people in need.
“Many of the patients we serve have limited transportation options and may have to take several buses to get to a clinic site,” said Kayichian. “They frequently work in jobs with limited or no sick leave, so they may have to give up all or part of a day’s pay to see a doctor. A virtual visit saves them time and money, and it increases the health care system’s capacity to see more patients by freeing up exam rooms and other clinic space.”

About Venice Family Clinic
Venice Family Clinic is a leader in providing comprehensive, high-quality primary health care to people living in poverty. Now celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Clinic has grown from a small storefront operation into one of Los Angeles’ leading community health centers, providing care to nearly 28,000 men, women and children annually through 12 sites in Venice, Santa Monica, Mar Vista, Inglewood and Culver City. The Clinic leads the way in providing comprehensive and integrated care by creating a one-stop health system that offers multiple services, often at the same locations and same time as primary care appointments. These services include dental care, substance use treatment, mental health services, vision screenings, child development classes, health education, prescription medications, domestic violence counseling, HIV/AIDS services, street medicine for people experiencing homelessness and health insurance enrollment services. For more information, visit Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.
Laura Mecoy