Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do called Wednesday on the county agency that provides insurance to the needy to speed up service to the area’s homeless population following the deaths of 210 transients last year.
Do held a news conference to announce a plan to speed up the spending of $60 million that CalOptima has already authorized to service the county’s homeless. He released a letter he sent on Tuesday to Michael Schrader, CEO of CalOptima, in which he accused bureaucrats of failing to quickly engage their indigent clients who live on the streets.
“Orange County had 210 homeless deaths on our streets in 2018, and a staggering 73% of those who died were members of CalOptima,” Do wrote. “In the four months since the (agency’s) board of directors authorized the Mobile Health Team, CalOptima has only been able to serve 47 individuals out of a population of almost 6,860 homeless residents countywide, of those 47 patients 40 were our members.”
Of the transient who died last year in Orange County, 153 were CalOptima clients, according to Do.
“We have had 25 more homeless deaths in the first two months of 2019 alone,” the supervisor wrote. “Since CalOptima’s own data show that the agency has a responsibility to provide health care to most homeless residents, I don’t understand your refusal to provide treatment to referrals from providers, other than the Orange County Health Care Agency. There are many providers throughout the county that interact with our county’s homeless population. Such refusal by CalOptima flies in the face of the board’s repeated pledge that we are looking at every way possible to provide services, provided that it is legal to do so.”
CalOptima’s approach to servicing the homeless “essentially places the burden on the county to identify patients and wait with them in the filed until CalOptima’s contracted clinics show up,” Do said in the letter. “Given that the wait is sometimes up to two hours, is it a wonder why there have been so few homeless residents who have taken up our services.”
Do added hat he failed to understand why the agency “refused to provide and the Homeless Ad Hoc Committee did not recommend services at homeless shelters, of which there are many that are run by the county and cities.”
He questioned whether CalOptima checked with the shelters to see if they have clients there.
“If you have not done so and, nevertheless, refused to provide service, your action was, at a minimum, willful negligence,” Do wrote.
“For two years, I have been met with push back for homeless health care at CalOptima from you, counsel and other directors,” his letter sayd. “I have been told repeatedly by CalOptima staff and counsel that CalOptima can only fund core health care services for CalOptima members, and these homeless individuals were not CalOptima members, therefore the agency was limited in what it can do.”
Do noted that the agency has nothing on its June board meeting agenda to discuss the issue, and since there’s no July meeting, the earliest it could consider doing anything would be in August.
“Such a delay is unconscionable,” Do wrote.
He called for a special meeting on June 20 to consider spending $10 million on clinic health care services in all homeless shelters, $10 million to authorize a mobile team of health care workers to respond to all homeless providers, $20 million on “residential support services and housing navigation” and $20 million to “extend recuperative care for homeless individuals with chronic physical health issues.”
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