City of Seattle investments will expand needed healthcare programs

Last week, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced expanded investments in health initiatives to serve Seattle’s most vulnerable populations. We’ve been working on many of these programs already, but we’re excited to see renewed dedication to expanding these services to serve more people like our clients.

We see every day that – when it is easily and readily available – people experiencing homelessness are more likely to access healthcare in a timely manner, which helps clients get better care and helps reduce strain on overcrowded emergency rooms.

The Mayor’s proposed creation of the 24/7 Nurse Line is the expansion of a service piloted at all DESC shelter and supportive housing sites. The phone line acts as a resource for housing and shelter staff to call in lieu of 911 to help determine if an alternative to calling emergency medical services is possible.  DESC piloted this program in partnership with the Seattle Fire Department in 2017-18 until funding ended. DESC recently re-established this service directly with a medical partner, and now the City is getting back involved to fund the service and expand it to other shelters and supportive housing beyond DESC.

Another exciting development is additional nursing services for five shelter and supportive housing sites that have a higher volume of emergency medical calls.  Three of the sites are DESC sites that already have daytime nursing hours, and this expansion will add evening nursing hours. Most DESC shelter and supportive housing locations have on-site nursing.

The Mayor’s proposal also creates capacity for four more Mental Health Professionals (MHP) working with the Seattle Police Department’s Crisis Response Team. DESC already employs one MHP on the SPD team, and the additional four positions will ensure that there is an MHP in every precinct.  DESC is a licensed behavioral health treatment provider, and all five of the MHPs will be provided through a contract with DESC.

DESC employs nearly 40 doctors and nurses in our programs to provide care ranging from consultations on chronic illnesses to primary care related to acute injuries or illness. We also have established long-term healthcare partnerships with Neighborcare Health, Harborview Medical Center, and the Veterans Administration to ensure that our clients get the best healthcare possible.

We’re thrilled to be a part of these much-needed investments in the health and well-being of people experiencing homelessness, and we’re excited for these expansions to take effect.