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Bay Pines VA expands service to unhoused Veterans

In early January, Bay Pines VA’s Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team (HPACT) brought the organization’s Mobile Medical Unit to the unhoused community for the first time.

The HPACT is a multi-disciplinary team dedicated to addressing the unique needs and distinct challenges unhoused Veterans face accessing and engaging in health care. The team consists of a medical doctor, a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse, to provide medical care. The remaining members are a medical support assistant to help establish eligibility and enrollment and a social worker to provide counseling services.

“We’re really starting to propel forward into the next age of meeting the individuals where they are,” said Bay Pines VA Social Worker Haydee Davis. “There’s a theory in social work called ‘person-in-environment’ and our presence in the community brings that concept to fruition.”

“Coming to them helps rebuild trust.”

“When we meet Veterans, we have the capability to address certain medical needs, such as the provision of wound care, vaccines and mental health evaluations,” said Chief of Primary Care Dr. Bernard Khaw. “We know the homeless Veteran population sometimes feels apprehensive toward VA, so coming to them helps rebuild trust.”

The five-person team brought the medical vehicle to Williams Park, located in St. Petersburg, because it is known to have a significant number of homeless people who populate the area. During their five-hour stay, members of the team took turns canvasing the area in search of Veterans who were ready to receive assistance.

“I love my team. Just like the work we do, it is innovative because we bring our individual strengths to the table and we challenge each other,” Davis said. “I see my role as helping to empower both my team and my patients. I always want Veterans to feel prepared, so my primary objective is to provide them with the tools they need to become their own hero.”

Ensuring every homeless Veteran receives the care they deserve

The medical unit will continue travelling to various locations throughout Pinellas County on a weekly basis and set up at locations known to have a high number of people experiencing homelessness. As they continue to solidify their operations, Bay Pines VA staff ask for the support of community partners to ensure every homeless Veteran receives the care they deserve.

“If you meet Veterans who would be resistant to care, please send them our way. If I can change the mindset of one person, I know that the ripple effect extends far beyond that,” Davis added.

Veterans who are experiencing homelessness, or at risk of becoming homeless, can connect to care by calling the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838 where staff are standing by to provide confidential support 24/7.

In the photo above, Bay Pines VA Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team (HPACT) Social Worker Haydee Davis (right), and other members of the HPACT, speak to an unhoused U.S. Air Force Veteran during the first outing of the organization’s Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) in the community Jan. 4. The MMU allows Veterans experiencing homelessness increased access to health care in the community.

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