Press Release: Screening and Testing COVID-19 Crisis
For Immediate Release
March 23, 2020
Vice President of Communications and Public Policy
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless Focuses Health Care Screening and Testing for People Experiencing Homelessness Due To COVID-19 Crisis
Denver, CO—Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), through its Stout Street Health Center (SSHC), has expanded and focused it integrated health services to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness in Metro Denver—a population which is extremely vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges that unhoused people undergo are only exacerbated by the current pandemic—little access to hand washing and sanitation, and the inability to practice social distancing in crowded shelters and encampments. With few places to isolate or quarantine if symptoms arise or tests are required, and with the closure of public buildings and restaurants in Denver, there are limited safe places for warmth, rest, and recharge during the rapidly changing spring weather.
Stout Street Health Center, Colorado’s only dedicated health care for the homeless program, is open for regular hours and is operating a COVID-19 Triage Program for people experiencing homelessness (for established and non-established patients) to screen individuals who have symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 virus. These include fever, coughing, shortness of breath, potential exposure to others who have tested positive for the virus, and those with chronic conditions that make them more susceptible to the virus. The triage team is testing patients who meet Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) protocol: over 64 years of age, and those with any of the following chronic medical conditions: diabetes, chronic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and those taking immunosuppressive medications.
In the last week, SSHC has triaged 139 people experiencing homelessness and tested 39 individuals. Of the 19 tests for which results are known, fortunately none have tested positive. We are awaiting results for an additional 20 individuals.
For those patients who meet current CDPHE testing protocol and are tested, CCH is arranging to provide private motel rooms to isolate these individuals from others in crowded emergency shelters of in street encampments. For those who test positive, additional quarantine rooms will be provided.
In addition, SSHC continues to provide integrated health care for patients with scheduled appointments, and those with chronic medical and non-urgent needs. Emergency dental care continues to be provided at the dental clinic, but routine dental care has been suspended during the pandemic.
Due to the significant lack of alternative shelter space, isolation options, and insufficient medical respite or recuperative care for people experiencing homelessness, the Coalition is negotiating with hotel or motel operators to master lease rooms to be used for isolation, quarantine, and medical respite care. We encourage hotel or motel operators to contact us if they have rooms they can make available for this purpose.
The Coalition recently purchased the 139 room Quality Inn and Suites on N. Quebec Street in Denver for conversion to apartments for long-term housing for homeless individuals. However, these apartments are now occupied or in the process of being leased up to eligible individuals.
Other Coalition healthcare services from Health Outreach Program (The HOP), West End Health Center, and the health clinic at St. Francis Shelter have been temporarily suspended to shift resources to Stout Street Health Center to focus on this emergency. Our clinical teams, in conjunction with the state, are currently assessing whether we can activate and implement more telehealth services to help contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community and to minimize exposure to staff.
We are, however, experiencing a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our health care staff. We are asking for donations of PPE and sanitizing supplies to help us meet our mission.
The Coalition is adding health care staff to keep pace with the growing number of people turning to us for care. We are using limited funds to help pay for motel nights as emergency housing for those awaiting results of COVID-19 testing. We are going through supplies like masks, gloves, soap, and other sanitation supplies faster than our budget in order to keep facilities clean, patients and staff safe. These steps are expected to cost an extra $1.3 million over the next four months.
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is also in the process of developing a centralized Supply Center for clients and patients to serve them during the outbreak. Through the centralization, the Supply Center will allow us to prioritize our greatest needs and gaps in the availability of products for people most in need. To date, the Denver community has donated $12,717 in in-kind donations to help support our efforts.
About the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
The mission of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is to work collaboratively toward the prevention of homelessness and the creation of lasting solutions for people experiencing and at-risk of homelessness homeless throughout Colorado. The Coalition advocates for and provides a continuum of housing and a variety of services to improve the health, well-being and stability of those it serves. Since its founding more than 30 years ago, the organization has earned state and national recognition for its integrated healthcare, housing, and service programs. The Coalition’s comprehensive approach addresses the causes of homelessness, as well as the consequences, offering critical assistance to over 20,000 individuals and families each year. Learn more at www.coloradocoalition.org.