A new federally funded program at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland will provide healthcare access exclusively to homeless children living in the Bay Area. The clinic, named Encore!, will focus on children who are living in homeless shelters and transitional housing. Studies have shown that homeless children either lack health insurance or have limited access to primary health care.
“Homesless children are more likely than others to have serious health problems such as asthma or diarrhea,” said Cheryl Zlotnick, RN and DrPH of Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. “These are often ordinary childhood illnesses that can become deadly if left untreated.”
According to the National Law Center on Homlessness and Poverty, approximately 1.35 million children in the U.S. are likely to become homeless in any given year. Experts agree that records for homeless children under the age of five are so inadequate that their true numbers could be far greater than currently reported. Another alarming statistic shows that a growing number of two-parent families are becoming homeless.
The clinic was given a $1.5 million three-year grant by the Bureau of Primary Health Care, which is a division under the Department of Health and Human Resources. The money will be used to expand the clinic’s services into a one-of-a-kind outreach program. Case managers will be sent out to find homeless families who need access to pediatric health care. In addition to primary health services, families will receive legal assistance including help with domestic violence issues, free transportation and information about dental hygiene. The award represents the only federally funded homeless children’s clinic that is not a part of an adult health clinic.
“Our goal is to provide homeless children with a medical home,” said Dr. Zlotnick, who will serve as director of the program. “If a child is healthy, they have a better chance of doing well in school and being successful in life. This program is a reminder that all children, not just those with a stable roof over their heads, need access to health care.”
Encore! will be located at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland’s Ambulatory Care Services department and will be operated by appointment only, every other Saturday from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. The program will work in partnership with Kerry’s Kids, a community partner that is primarily made up of pediatricians from Children’s Hospital Oakland.