Those of you who have been reading the Bulletin for the past two weeks have been introduced to the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP), the recipient of our Collaborative’s 2022 Lenten Gift. As you can imagine, there is no shortage of worthy causes, both domestic and international, from which to choose. Our Service Commission decided that this year we would direct our attention to a local problem: the homeless and the quality of healthcare that they receive.

The mission of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program is to ensure unconditionally equitable and dignified access to the highest quality health care for all individuals and families experiencing homelessness in our community. Many homeless patients struggle with at least one substance abuse problem, at least one chronic physical condition and a psychiatric illness. Each condition is often preventable and manageable…on its own. But, in combination and left untreated, such health problems become compounded — and all too often, fatal. 

Medicine has long grappled with addressing these interconnected aspects of a patient’s healthcare in a coordinated way. The integrated care model at BHCHP unites physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, case managers and behavioral health professionals in close collaboration. They follow patients in a variety of settings – on the streets, at the Barbara McInnis House, in shelter-based clinics, in the hospitals and in housing – providing regular contact and uninterrupted care.

Last week, we introduced you to the stories of some of the patients at BHCHP. They are just like us. In the words of one donor:

“There is so little separation between being a homeless person and being a well-functioning member of society. One little slip up and your life can change forever and not for the better. I try to remember this every day.”

In mid-March, we were honored to have a lecture by Dr. James O’Connell, the President of BHCHP and the author of Stories from the Shadows, his diary of vignettes from his nearly 40 years of serving the homeless population. The stories are individual, but the common theme is the incredible dedication of the team that started with a staff of 8 individuals and has now blossomed to more than 400, conducting clinics in more than 45 locations stretching across the city of Boston. They truly are their brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

Our challenge as a Collaborative is to help them continue their mission by contributing to our Lenten Gift, which will be taken up at all Masses on the weekend of April 2-3. You may also contribute online on our website or by sending a check (please make the check payable to your parish and note “Lenten Gift” in the memo) to either of the parish offices. We earnestly encourage you to give as generously as your means will allow. Thank you.

For more information on BHCHP and how you can help please visit our Collaborative Lenten Gift page.  

Sources: Stories from the Shadows, Reflections of a Street Doctor by James J. O’Connell, M.D.

Telling the Story Part Three: Integrated Care