Street psychiatry, sometimes known as street medicine, is a burgeoning field of psychiatry that has emerged in the US in cities like Boston, Oakland, and Los Angeles. Responders who have been trained to assist with non-life-threatening mental health and behavioural health concerns are sent to relevant 911 calls by neighbouring programmes, including one in Portland.
Going to a hospital’s emergency room or department is one of the few methods someone can receive mental care. During an emergency room visit, a patient might be given prescription medication, but once they are discharged, there are no follow-ups for when the drug runs out.
A patient’s daily environment and the clinical setting are two entirely distinct things. The team of psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners is led by psychiatrist Shayan Rab, who told the Los Angeles Times that “you are witnessing two separate versions of the patient.” “When we deal with a person on the street, we notice how they are interacting with their environment and how they live in the community.”
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The objective is to enrol people in residential programmes, but the outreach and social worker teams’ knowledge of their whereabouts is the first and most important step. In Los Angeles, the Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement (HOME) program’s outreach workers, social workers, nurses, and substance addiction counsellors work together with Rab’s psychiatry team.
Those who are homeless and without a place to live are especially susceptible to mental illness, as well as to hunger and other necessities.
According to the HOME website, “These vulnerable and disengaged persons struggle to secure sufficient food, clothing, and shelter owing to their mental illness.”
They may also exhibit serious hygiene and communication issues, and they frequently resist seeking out treatments. They need specialist mental health assistance to find and maintain homes as they are unable to live safely in the community, according to the website.
For this population, which is less likely to access services—especially if they live far from where the facilities are located—street psychiatrists fill a void.
According to Katherine Koh, a street psychiatrist with the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program and Massachusetts General Hospital, “I would say that few populations face higher psychological strain than the homeless yet considering the volume, there are extremely few resources for treating them.”
Some people could need assistance and desire shelter, but it might still require some persuasion to get them to attend a care facility. “I was at a loss for words. I was sick of doing drugs. Alvin told the University of California, San Francisco, “I was weary of not taking my medicine and not being normal. Another person told the university that receiving dental care provided him with the “great self-esteem” he need to at last visit a clinic for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment, after which he was able to find lodgings.
According to Rab, street psychiatrists can provide their patients with follow-up care, pharmaceutical support, and—in some cases—assistance with finding accommodation. It increases the likelihood that these patients will be able to receive the care they require by interacting with people in need where they are and bringing psychiatric services to them.
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