You can make access to needed medication to thousands annually
In early October 2018, state health officials declared an outbreak of Hepatitis A, a local public health emergency. It has since identified community partners, including pharmacists, to help contain the outbreak. AHCH Pharmacists Larry, said local public health officials reached out AHCH because they needed help with the vaccination response.
Currently, the AHCH Outreach Team, which includes a Harm Reduction Specialist, a counselor, and a Nurse Manager began outreach and education efforts to stop the disease from spreading, specifically targeting people who are experiencing homeless and individuals who are injecting substances. A partnership with the New Mexico Department of Health ensures people who are at risk of contracting Hepatitis A are receiving the vaccine said Larry.
Soon, the AHCH Pharmacy will be providing a clinic for the Hepatitis A vaccines and flu vaccines. AHCH Chief Health Officer Venita Pine said, “If we can provide a clinic specific for the vaccines, we can eliminate the wait time for people who need it most and free up the medical clinic for medical services.”
Hepatitis A infection is often tied to poor sanitation and usually spreads when someone ingests even “microscopic amounts” of fecal matter from an infected person, according to the NMDOH. Signs of the disease include fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, and yellowness of the skin and eyes. The illness can be short-lived, but more serious cases can last several months.
Extreme cases can cause liver failure or death, but it is typically a short-time illness and does not become chronic, according to the CDC website.
On a typical day, Larry sees about 20 patients. He said the most common diagnoses that require prescription therapy at AHCH have been diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression. As mentally ill people’s disabilities worsen, their ability to cope with their surroundings or the ability of those around them to cope with their behavior becomes severely strained. In the absence of appropriate therapeutic interventions and supportive alternative housing arrangements, many wind up on the streets according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.
Further, the Council recommends these clinical standards for any health care for the homeless’ pharmacies:
“All I really want to do is give the best care plan for that person that day. I know that they probably don’t have a home to return to, but while they are here, we try to provide the best care possible,” said Larry. He hopes to develop a more comprehensive warm-handoff system with the AHCH Resource Center and the Client Advocate team to ensure people who need additional social services will be received with care.
In addition to pharmaceutical services, the pharmacy also offers referrals to harm reduction services, social work, dentistry, psychological, licensed professional counseling, and Suboxone therapy. Building trust and providing services is a good step to enabling people experience homelessness toward prioritizing their own health, but the road doesn’t end there. The AHCH Pharmacy works with patients transitioning into housing to keep access to health care available to them said Larry. Regardless of the barriers, the pharmacy continues to make health care for the homeless their top priority because of the value they see their care provides.
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Image Credits: upper right, Jeremy Yazzie/ Lower Center, AHCH