Meet the Team: Integrated Health Outreach

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Image taken during Friday Night Outreach at the International District Library

Outreach Director: Matthew Frahm

Q: Your position is new and was born out of AHCH's commitment to Outreach. What else is AHCH doing to invest in outreach?

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, AHCH as a whole pivoted to increase our service delivery outside of our brick-and-mortar campus. We drew on our strengths and went back to our roots, seamlessly shifting more resources to outreach and providing nearly all our services in the field, while keeping our doors open to serve clients on our health care campus. We’ve maintained our commitment to bring services to the most vulnerable in our community who remain unhoused by providing integrated health outreach services. We recently purchased a new mobile unit to provide comprehensive primary care and dental services. We have continued to provide extensive outreach beyond the pandemic because we know that our model meets our clients’ needs. We continue to work on demonstrating impact on health outcomes as we have refined our data collection strategy to further expand our reach into the future.

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Image taken during outreach to the Westside Emergency Housing Center

Dentist: Dr. Lee Affholter

Q: What is something you personally enjoy about doing outreach? 
My current favorite project is making dentures for patients at the Westside shelter. We pack up all the supplies from the dental clinic and transport them so that I can complete the steps at the shelter and alleviate the need for patients to come into the clinic. Dentures can take 4-5 visits in order to complete, and with the shelter being about 20 miles outside of town, it's difficult for them to come to us. Many of these patients have mobility issues so I love being able to accomplish this in a more untraditional setting

Q: How do you see our outreach activities helping to overcome some of the barriers our population faces?

When I meet patients on outreach, frequently they are tired and discouraged. It can be incredibly difficult to search for a clinic that accepts their insurance, especially with dental services, and then wait for months to establish care, only to find out that that clinic doesn’t offer what they may need. The medical system is difficult to navigate. The ability to simply answer someone’s questions is invaluable. When I am on outreach, I’m able to answer questions quickly and evaluate someone in an environment that is hopefully less frightening and more accessible to them. Our patients struggle with transportation, so being able to bring a clinical team to them truly can make all the difference.

Q: If you asked our outreach clients/patients what we could do that would be most helpful to them, what do you think they would say? 
I think they would ask to be treated with empathy. Our patients often feel as though they are treated with less respect or care or understanding. They aren’t given the second or third chance that the general population gets. They need quality healthcare that is free from judgement, that meets them where they are.

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Image taken during Friday Night Outreach at the International District Library

Registered Nurse: Oakley Blasdel

Q: Where do you provide services to clients/patients outside of our campus at 1st & Mountain?
I go on all medical outreaches, which includes street medicine rounds, Friday night syringe service outreach with our Harm Reduction team, site-based outreach to Westside Emergency Housing Center, Safe House, Joy Junction, Hope Village, the International District library, and outreach to clients with medical or family motel vouchers.

Q: How do you see our outreach activities helping to overcome some of the barriers our population faces? 
The greatest benefit of our outreaches is taking care to people where they are. Many of our clients are reluctant to leave their belongings on the street or pack up and bring them to the clinic, or they have difficulty finding transportation to come to the clinic. Some of our clients have had multiple unpleasant experiences with the medical system, so they are reluctant to come to a clinic at all. Being able to meet them on the street or in a shelter eliminates that barrier and makes good medical care available to them on their terms. Having positive encounters with medical staff on their terms builds trust in the system in general, and can foster a willingness to engage in care, hopefully resulting in a better quality of life.

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Image taken during outreach to the Westside Emergency Housing Center

Community Health Worker: Liz Funnell

Q: Where do you provide services to clients/patients outside of our campus at 1st & Mountain?

It is our goal to reach out to all corners of Bernalillo County. The clients that we serve are unfortunately forced to move around the city as they struggle to find safe places to sleep, and we have made it our job to find them and meet them where they are. Every outreach we do on the streets is different, and we stop whenever we see someone who could utilize our assistance, whether that be medical assistance, resource navigation, survival supplies, or harm reduction supplies.

We also have many community partners who share our passion to end homelessness. We visit these partners often in order to establish continuity of care, spread education about the services we provide, and make ourselves more available to anyone who might need help. We visit Joy Junction, New Day Youth and Family Services’ drop-in center, S.A.F.E House, The Transgender Resource Center, The Westside Emergency Housing Center, and the International District Library.

Q: How do you see our outreach activities helping to overcome some of the barriers our population faces?

A: One of the heart-breaking realities for the clients we serve is that they often don’t have the time or space to plan very far into the future. Because they are forced to constantly concentrate on what they are going to eat and where they are going to sleep and how they are going to stay safe, sometimes it is not possible for them to plan on navigating public transportation to make it to an appointment on our campus. Some of our clients have mobility issues or other handicaps that compound those difficulties. When we make ourselves available to travel to the clients we make the statement, “Everyone deserves healthcare.”

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