From big cities to our smallest towns, homelessness has become a feature of the California landscape. Nearly one third of the homeless people in the nation live in the state. Homeless people often are living with addiction and mental illness and in squalid conditions. But for women, there is another dangerous risk: pregnancy. Angela Hart is a senior correspondent for the KFF Health News and she joined Lisa McRee on “LA Times Today” to talk about a street medicine program that’s providing a measure of hope for women who are pregnant and addicted.
Hart visited Shasta County, California, a rural area north of Sacramento. She recounted her experience talking with homeless women there.
“They’re living in places you might think of sidewalks and doorways, but they’re also sleeping in creeks. And so the conditions are just really difficult. And that makes access to basic resources, water, shelter, food, things that you think that any homeless person and any pregnant person might need, it becomes incredibly much more difficult to get it up there,” Hart said.
One of the women Hart spoke to was addicted to heroin and fentanyl. After she became pregnant, she passed a disease onto her unborn baby. Her baby later died in her arms. Hart talked about a street medicine program that aims to stop such tragedies from occurring.
“Street medicine [is] a wildly growing medical field in California. These are teams of doctors, nurses, physicians assistants and case managers. There are these big teams that are really fanning out across California and their whole aim... is to really address the deteriorating health conditions on the streets,” Hart explained. “What the street medicine teams really have done is fill gaps in care and in Redding and in throughout California and much of the country. To be honest, there is a major gap in care for pregnant women and for prenatal care and postpartum care. So what we’re seeing is street medicine filling the gaps in that type of care, too.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom has launched funding for street medicine in California. Hart explained where the money will go.
“California saw the number of street medicine providers double in a year. So, this is a really growing field and medicine. And I think what’s happening in California, we really should be watching the rest of the nation, because now the Biden administration has similarly expanded reimbursement for street medicine. And I think California offers a really interesting case study on how we can see that field grow,” she said.
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