HONOLULU – Thanks to grants from Queens Medical Center, HMSA, and Island Hospice, services at the new Joint Outreach Center on North Hotel Street in Chinatown are free. Although it officially opened Thursday, people have already dropped by.
One man caught the attention of one of the Hawaii Homeless Healthcare Hui outreach volunteers in Chinatown.
On his back, a old gash from a stabbing.
Instead of a trip to the emergency room, he got treatment in the not-yet-open walk-in clinic near Honolulu’s Police Department and stitched up.
He’s one of the more than 200 individuals already serviced by the new Joint Outreach Center.
The new site is now officially open but volunteer doctors have been seeing patients for about two and a half months.
“Going from a small suggestion to an actual functional reality,” Lt. Mike Lambert, Honolulu Police Department said.
What started as a vision to help the homeless population in Chinatown turned into a collaborative effort, now offering free medical care and social services.
“We’re going to take a chance. Our administration is about taking risks,” Honolulu police chief Susan Ballard said.
Many of the patients in need of drug treatment or wound care. Before, a trip to one of Oahu’s emergency rooms would cost them time and money.
“So that they are actually taken care of here in Chinatown. So they don’t end up at Queen’s in the emergency room. So they don’t end up in our ambulances being delivered there eating up valuable resources in capital that could be devoted to other things,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.
Now, no appointment is needed.
“After that ambulance spends $1000 and takes them to queens where 30 percent of all of the er visits at Queen’s are now homeless individuals. Many hours spent with that staff and that individual will finally get care for several thousands of dollars seeing an er physician like me,” Dr. Josh Green, volunteer at the center said.
Green says that after a patient is treated, he or she will be asked if they need other assistance such as housing or counseling.
It’s not just for homeless, anyone can drop in. Organizers say they’re looking for new partners and they’re also looking at new locations. Possibly opening up similar outreach centers in Honolulu and on the Windward side of Oahu.