Medical Technology to Decrease Access and Outcomes Disparities for People with Behavioral Disabilities Experiencing Homelessness


Grantee: Downtown Emergency Service Center
Timeframe: October 2022 – September 2023 | Amount: $15,000

DESC will purchase specific equipment and supplies for diagnosing/managing emergent or chronic medical conditions at their Drop-In Mental Health Clinic, increasing capacity to provide timely and accurate care to homeless adults at high risk of illness.

DESC’s clients have been routinely ill-served in conventional medical facilities over their years of homelessness. They live with seriously disorganizing behavioral illnesses that make it difficult to successfully attend to their health care, remember appointments, or navigate communication or public transportation needed to reliably make it to doctor or laboratory visits. As a result, they tend to ignore their body’s signals of emerging or worsening health, and wait until they are sick enough to go to an emergency room. Even when they are “medically cleared” and discharged from the ER or hospitalization post-illness or surgery, they frequently show up at DESC programs with significant ongoing medical needs, such as Covid-19, symptomatic HIV in all stages, hepatitis, systemic infections, cancer, diabetes, heart problems, pulmonary conditions, and other degenerative diseases. DESC clients are highly susceptible to contagious illnesses and may not realize they are sick, especially those who use opioids or other substances.

DESC’s medical staff at 216 James currently do some testing (HIV, HCV and others), but they have to send tests to an offsite medical laboratory and wait hours or days for results. Given the highly transitory nature of the client population, staff have no way to ensure that tested clients return to the clinic for results, further care, referrals or prescriptions. If a client is infectious and does not know it, they increase their own medical vulnerability as well as affecting all others in the community with whom they come into contact.

Nimble Grant funds will be used to purchase a Chemistry Analyzer Piccolo® Xpress™ machine and related testing kits. Upon receipt of a grant award, DESC’s Director of Nursing Alix van Hollebeke will order the new machine and test kits. She and another member of DESC’s medical team who also has experience with similar machines will provide training to other staff as needed.


About Our Grantee

Downtown Emergency Service Center

DESC provides effective and affordable solutions to homelessness for our community’s most vulnerable men and women through a nationally recognized interwoven network of care, housing, and support.

Nimble Grant

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