Coupling the effects of this pandemic on people already experiencing the crisis of homelessness, service providers in our field are now faced with even more insurmountable challenges.  There is no use trying to sugar coat that – but taking immediate steps, such as removing barriers to evidence-based treatment for those with a substance use disorder as well as for harm reduction services, can go a long way to mitigate some of that suffering, and bring hope back into the lives of the people we serve. As the CEO of Pathways to Housing PA, I am committed to making the changes needed to house and care for people during this troubling time.

At the onset of the virus, Pathways implemented a multi-pronged approach to maintain (and in some instances increase) levels of service, ensure staff and participant safety, and innovate service delivery.

Innovation in Clinical Services

Virtual Visits, Telehealth, and Technology. We invested in new technologies in early March to conduct daily clinical rounds to ensure that no participant falls through the cracks. We adopted a telehealth platform to maintain psychiatric and behavioral health services. Understanding the digital divide, we purchased devices to ensure access to services for our most vulnerable participants.

Prioritization of Services Based on Clinical Need. We categorized people across three tiers by clinical need

Integrated Care Services

Opioid Use Disorder Center of Excellence (OUD-COE). Pathways operates the only non-hospital based OUD-COE in Philadelphia, in partnership with Project HOME and Prevention Point. Our COE maintained medication-assisted treatment, recovery support services, and benefits coordination to 450 Participants with OUD. We are providing virtual services where possible, and in-person services where necessary.

Integrated Care Clinic. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the provision of these services into sharper view, and underscores the connection between housing and health care.

Housing and Other Support Services

Supporting Participant Choice. We believe that offering participants the choice of where they want to live supports recovery.

New Services to Combat Food Insecurity. We conducted a comprehensive food security assessment; where there were gaps, we filled them.

Read the full article about housing first during the pandemic by Christine Simiriglia at National Alliance to End Homelessness.