The Health Care for the Homeless Collaborative (HCHC) is a voluntary countywide coalition of hospitals, clinics, substance abuse, mental health and homeless services working to assure access to integrated care for homeless people.  Originally convened by the Sonoma County Task Force for the Homeless in 2003, the HCHC has met monthly since 2008.

67% of local homeless people surveyed in 2013 had at least one serious medical condition or disability, and many had multiple conditions. The HCHC identifies and fills gaps in services via collaboration. We are in a unique position to foster community-wide solutions. Our collaborative process brings us together to integrate services and forge and strengthen connections across regions, disciplines, and agencies.

The HCHC addresses service gaps through both interagency coordination and development of new programs as needed.  In the last several years the HCHC, with Task Force leadership and support, secured a grant creating 19 Respite beds in Petaluma and Santa Rosa to provide recuperative care to people being released from hospitals with nowhere to go.  Thirteen of these beds are run by Catholic Charities at Santa Rosa Community Health Centers’ (SRCHC’s) Brookwood Health Center. Up to six were established at the Committee on the Shelterless’ (COTS’) Mary Isaak Center in Petaluma, though they now have capacity for five due to additional needed programs being initiated at the facility, leaving 18 active beds countywide.

The HCHC also launched a Care Transitions Program operated at the Brookwood Health Center by SRCHC that provides intensive case management to address a wide range of needs for people with complex medical and social conditions. While originally funded through grants developed by the HCHC, both programs are now supported by local hospitals based on cost savings from utilizing these services.  Previous grants were secured to help establish and strengthen the Brookwood Health Center and its predecessor, the A Street Clinic, to provide necessary services at West County Health Centers, and to transport residents of the Mary Isaak Center to complimentary medical appointments. All this occurred in great part due to the relationships built through the HCHC.

At the request of local hospitals in mid-2012, the HCHC is now collaborating with ambulance services, law enforcement and the courts on a new interagency system to stabilize chronically intoxicated people.  Many repeatedly visit emergency departments, use substantial community resources, and are not getting the treatment they truly need. In 2013 the Drug Abuse Alternatives Center, an HCHC participant, opened a Sobering Center that is a centerpiece in this system and is already moving people to 30-day detoxification and then residential treatment, where housing assistance is also offered at completion of the program.  We are now working with law enforcement, ambulance services and the courts to develop and implement a program based on the highly respected and successful Serial Inebriate Program model operating in San Diego that was also adopted in San Francisco in 2013.

Chronic Intoxication Sonoma Cost Study

For more information or to get involved, contact Georgia Berland, HCHC Convener, at gberland@aol.com.