PeaceHealth: house calls for unhoused patients

For staff at an integrated health clinic at PeaceHealth in downtown Eugene,  “meeting people where they are” is more than just an expression—it’s central to their mission.

Every other week, a PeaceHealth team from the Unified Care Clinic (or UCare) that includes a provider, nurse and case manager travels across town to a shelter community to help patients with prescriptions, chronic conditions and basic wound care. The case manager helps these unhoused patients, many of whom have not used health care services in years, register as PeaceHealth patients and apply for Medicaid.

Care expands into the community thanks to a PeaceHealth partnership with Community Supported Shelters, a local nonprofit that supports several clustered encampments around Eugene.

One such patient, a man named Jeffrey, had tooth pain so severe he pulled five out himself. He needed treatment, but dental clinics wouldn’t offer services until he addressed his high blood pressure. That’s where the UCare Clinic team entered the picture, arranging treatment for Jeffrey’s other medical issues and clearing the way for dental care.

Other patients may have barriers to treatment, but the UCare Clinic staff can treat both physical and behavioral health issues. Many of the people served by the UCare team haven’t been getting regular medical care. They often have untreated chronic conditions complicated by mental illness or substance use disorder.

“We do everything we can to try to meet patients where they are, without judgment,” said Kathy Kernan, a PeaceHealth nurse practitioner. “It is incredibly fulfilling when, despite so many obstacles in their lives, patients begin to trust us and start making meaningful improvements in their health.”