by Astrid Fiano
, DOTmed News Writer | September 21, 2009
In Phoenix, AZ, like so many other urban areas, adolescents and teens hang around the streets unseen and unnoticed. These youth are homeless, runaways, throwaways-many with health problems, mental illness, and sometimes drug or alcohol abuse. Some have traumatic histories of parental physical or sexual abuse.
The youth of Phoenix are one of the demographics of the city's community lacking health insurance who use hospital emergency rooms as a stop-gap for care--mostly without an opportunity for follow-up to their initial health problems, and without a means to address the varied circumstances that have led to their current medical issues.
However, the Crews'n Healthmobile Homeless Youth Program (Crews'n) is making heroic efforts to change that situation. A recent "Innovation Profile" by the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality details how the Crews'n's freestanding clinic and mobile medical unit fill that gap of holistic care these troubled young people (the program serves those up to 24 years old) so desperately need.
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Randal Christensen, MD, MPH, FAAP, Director of Crews'n, spoke to DOTmed News about the program's gratifying success and community support in helping these kids who are trying to survive despite, Dr. Christensen says, an "incredibly tough life" with violence and abuse as a regular occurrence. "The program that we run is kind of a newer model of health care. We see a number of kids that we think have higher levels of medical problems and certainly some other barriers to health care--they are in homeless shelters, they are living [on] the street, they are living with friends, they just have a number of difficulties. Because of this we think they need an enhanced medical home."
When people think about a medical home model, Dr. Christensen explains, they think of their doctor and an overall encompassing holistic approach to medical care. The staff of the Crews'n program believe that this model of health care works. Not only does this program work well for the youth in treating their medical problems and helping to solve some of the social issues and getting them access to health care, Dr. Christensen says, the program makes fiscal sense.
Showing the program is successful and leads to a reduction in emergency room visits demonstrates "...the patients win, the doctors in the emergency rooms win, the other patients waiting in the emergency rooms win, and the community itself wins because we are taking care of these kids in our clinic. They are spending less time in emergency rooms, they are incurring less costs and better treatment, more comprehensive treatment and we're saving money for the entire community."