Homeless Health Care Grant May Ease Taxpayer Burden

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Homeless Health Care Grant May Ease Taxpayer Burden

For paramedics, The Opportunity Center for the Homeless in Central El Paso is almost an everyday stop, and most of the calls come in after 5 p.m.

“We average about 20 ambulance calls a month. Usually they are minor sorts of things, such as ‘I have a wound that wasn’t taken care of earlier, I ran out of medication, I’m feeling bad,'” said Ray Tullius, director of The Opportunity Center for the Homeless.

According to Thomason Hospital’s care management department, one trip to the emergency room for the average homeless person can cost taxpayers $2,000 to $3,000.

“The expenses were over $4 million for one year. That’s for the emergency department as well as in patient care,” said Mary Ann Digman, director of care management.

To cut back on the cost, Thomason has awarded the shelter a $60,000 grant. The details have not been worked out, but Tullius plans on extending clinic hours at the shelter.

The Opportunity Center for the Homeless is the only shelter in El Paso with on-site medical care. Centro San Vicente Clinic has been an on-off operation at the shelter. Tullius said it’s because of a lack of staff. The clinic is staffed with one registered nurse and a nurse. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Tullius said another registered nurse will be coming on board with the clinic later this month, and Tullius wants to eventually keep the clinic open until 9 p.m. He said he hopes it will help bring the number of ambulance calls down.

Digman said long-term plans might include a care center where the hospital may release homeless patients who still need medical attention, and aren’t able to care for themselves because of their circumstance.

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