HONOLULU — Hawaii’s largest health care companies are joining forces to provide medical services to help combat the state’s growing homeless population.
A group composed mostly of private-sector health care leaders, including Hawaii Medical Service Association and The Queen’s Medical Center, is planning to turn a four-story Honolulu building into an epicenter for homeless services.
“Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis and a health economic crisis,” said Democratic Hawaii Sen. Josh Green, a Hawaii island emergency room physician who is heading the project. “Homeless individuals live to an average age of 51, three decades shorter than average in Hawaii, so it’s objectively a health condition.”
There were 20,323 homeless hospital visits statewide last year versus 11,619 in 2010. In 2016, state hospitals billed $214 million — or $29,862 per patient — in charges for caring for the homeless, compared with $70.5 million in 2010, according to the Hawaii Health Information Corp., a nonprofit health data company.
“I see the ambulance down here more than I see the people that live around here,” Loren Hammond, a homeless man who lives at Aala Park, said Friday while being treated by a community health nurse for multiple leg wounds. “If I feel I need them, I’ll call them. It works out for the homeless people.”
The project, known as “H4” — hygiene, health, housing and humanitarian — targets the highest users of services at Hawaii’s hospitals in hopes of diverting them to more appropriate and less expensive treatment. The group plans to raise $5 million from the private sector to open the facility in 2018, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports (http://bit.ly/2xrEg6c ).
The center will include a 24-hour urgent care center with primary and mental health services, a rapid detox and wound care center, and a place for the most critical patients to stay for up to 30 days while being treated for chronic diseases, mental illness and other serious health conditions.