Medical Outreach: Finding individuals far from care
A large white van abruptly pulls to the side of the road, its tires slowly crunching the small rocks on the shoulder. It rolls to a stop next to a billboard; beneath it, a man rests next to a grocery cart filled with his belongings. Dr. Joel Wecker and AEMT Matt Pierce hop out of the white van and walk toward the solemn individual. For most, one would be hesitant to approach someone in that situation. But Wecker and Pierce understand that everyone deserves a chance at a healthy life; they introduce themselves and immediately ask the man if he needs any medical assistance.
“Our patients have dealt with countless barriers throughout their lives commonly with little support in navigating these barriers,” Wecker said. “The medical system is one of the most difficult systems to navigate and the inherent barriers in the medical system often keep patients from accessing the help they need to get back on their feet. Through outreach we reconnect with patients who have given up because of hitting too many barriers. We can meet them at an easier place, and find ways to navigate difficult systems.”
The Medical Outreach Support Team drives out to surrounding areas of the Salt Lake Valley each week, seeking out the most vulnerable homeless populations. They find homeless camps in small pockets of the foothills; seek out men and women living in parks and along riverbanks; and drive out to jails and motels for individuals who won’t or can’t come to a clinic for medical attention.
Developing a relationship with those who need one most
Dr. Wecker meets with a woman in a local park in Salt Lake City. Raised here, she talked about riding trains throughout the western US before migrating back to Utah with her boyfriend. They’ve been living on the streets with their dogs for a few years now, carrying what they have place to place. She mentions her struggles with mental illness, and Dr. Wecker listens intently. She notices his attentiveness and smiles. She then recommends Wecker and Pierce find a woman she saw recently in the area who complained of a kidney infection.
“There have been a few cases where homeless individuals have relaxed in their refusal to seek medical care because of being treated poorly,” Wecker said matter of factly. “Others decide to reconnect with medical care after some time of ignoring important medical conditions. This could happen because of the ease of testing, treatment, or coordination of care when we come to the patient.”
“The barriers for someone to come into the clinic are reduced by 55%,” says Pierce, continuing Wecker’s comment. Getting an individual to Fourth Street Clinic means they will have unfettered access to primary medical care, dental services, and specialty health care services. Someone can finally get their health back on track and onto the path of housing.
The two head back to the outreach van to grab medical supplies and a prescription pad. For them, the work doesn’t stop. It just keeps rolling along.
Join the Medical Outreach Support Team
Fourth Street Clinic is looking for a Medical Assistant or EMT to join the Outreach team. Head to our employment page now to learn how to apply!
You can also donate to Fourth Street Clinic now and put health care into the hands of someone who needs it most.