Finding New Ways to Bring Resources and Healthcare to the Homeless Community of Jacksonville
In my position, I helped enroll patients who sought medical services at Sulzbacher Beaches Clinic by assisting them with the medical eligibility process. The patients who would come into the office fell into many different categories. Some had insurance while others did not. Some of the patients were homeless, while others had a home and job. Because many of the patients we served had lower levels of health literacy, they required additional assistance with understanding the requirements and submitting the required information to our office. I would meet with individuals when they came into our clinic and break down each step of the eligibility process more easily. This also required many times the use of a translator for patients who did not speak English proficiently. By meeting with individuals, many of whom were from vulnerable populations, I was able to help ensure they were receiving timely medical services while navigating the barriers of health literacy and, in particular to the homeless clients, access to care, transportation, and resources.
Another role in my AmeriCorps service was screening patients for PAP eligibility and helping them enroll in PAP programs, which are programs offered through pharmaceutical companies that provide free prescription medications if the individual meets the income and insurance criteria. This role was important because it helped many of the patients at our clinic receive medications that would otherwise be unattainable due to high costs. With our patients able to receive medications, I was able to contribute to the management of chronic illnesses in the Jacksonville Beaches community.
My favorite part of my AmeriCorps service was working with the homeless outreach team at our office. I would ride with the homeless outreach coordinator and we would seek out homeless individuals near the Jacksonville Beaches area. We would have conversations with homeless individuals about their living situations, their food sources, and whether or not they were interested in seeking shelter and medical services. I would assist in educating these individuals on all of the medical services that Sulzbacher offered and help them to fill out the eligibility paperwork. This process directly overstepped the barriers that homeless individuals face when trying to get connected with health care services, as I was immediately available to help educate them and they also did not have to worry about transportation to our clinic to receive the paperwork. Throughout the year, we were able to help many homeless individuals get access to healthcare and shelter at the main Sulzbacher center.
I believe that my understanding of the many barriers to care that homeless individuals face became more evident during my service term. Many of these things are out of the immediate control of the individual, such as where they were raised, the schools they attended growing up, and for many, unfortunate and devastating life circumstances that contributed to their current situation. I also saw the genuine appreciation many of these individuals displayed when they received the simplest items. I became humbled by their attitude of gratefulness as well as their bravery to endure the hardships they faced on a daily basis.