There are many factors that can cause a person to become homeless. One of the most visible on the streets of LA is a lack of adequate mental health care. The LA County Department of Mental Health is seeking to address that shortfall in access with their first street psychiatrist, Dr. Shayan Rab.
Dr. Rab joined Lisa McRee on “LA Times Today” to talk about his work.
About 76% of LA’s homeless population is living with some type of mental health condition. To help solve this problem, the Department of Mental Health created the Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement Team, or HOME Team. Dr. Rab shared what he does with the team.
“My specialized outreach team went from it being outreach workers, social workers, and substance use counselors to including a medical arm of nursing and psychiatrist coming in together. What this really meant is the HOME team could not only tap into resources that the outreach teams could, but they could also directly provide treatment,” Rab said.
An outreach team approaches clients first, then Rab’s medical team provides further services.
“Nursing staff... will provide a nursing assessment, get vitals to do some basic medical screening, and if there’s no need for an acute medical intervention, then the psychiatrist will come in. The psychiatrist will complete an evaluation right on the streets, using a trauma informed approach... to explain the role of the physician in their recovery and try and get some medications started. These medications then go to our pharmacy, which will deliver the medications to us, and we will go out and hand-deliver the medications daily to our clients,” Rab said.
Once the client’s symptoms improve, the HOME team helps them find housing. Rab talked about how he and the team define their successes.
“A primary outcome measure for us is housing. That’s the whole point of us doing treatment is to quickly get someone off the street... The next step that we measure success is did we get them into a permanent housing situation?... We should start thinking about what the long-term plan is for them to get to another team. When we transfer their care to an appropriate team, we start focusing on the next person,” he said.
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