In 2014, the Providence Southwest Washington Foundation Board presented an idea to the Providence operations team to fund behavioral health services for the most vulnerable individuals in our community. The goal was to ease the way of these individuals who would normally utilize the Providence Emergency Department. Under the direction of the Providence operations team and multiple community partners, the Providence Community Care Center opened in September of 2017.
During the first few years of operations, the Providence Community Care Center helped fill the gap in care for the homeless the community needed at the time. The coordination seen between many social service partners as well as the City of Olympia and Thurston County was unprecedented prior to the opening of the Center. The success of the center is a direct correlation with the amazing operational and funding partnerships which were contributors in the planning, collaboration, and operations of the center. For a look back on our partnerships and processes see this presentation from 2017. Providence appreciates the dedication and commitment from our many partners and Foundation Board who were all aligned with making a difference in our community.
In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, operations shifted from a day room model to an appointment-based operation as it was vital for critical resources to remain available and to be provided safely during the pandemic. During the past few years, the resources in our community have improved and it was clear that a centralized model in downtown Olympia needed to change. In response, resources will now move to an outreach mobilized model eliminating the need for those seeking help to find transportation to one centralized location in the downtown core.
In a new outreach program termed ‘Street Medicine,’ Providence teams will be meeting individuals where they are, directly providing physical and behavioral health medical care through a comprehensive approach, as well as offering connections to other social service agencies. They will be providing the best-known science in primary and preventative medicine for unhoused individuals.
In addition, Providence has partnered with Thurston Mason Behavioral Health Organization and Thurston County to operate the mobile outreach program known as HOST “Homeless Outreach Stabilization Team.” HOST is funded by the Washington State Health Care Authority, Olympia Health and Recovery Services, Providence Southwest Washington Foundation and Thurston County.
The Street Medicine and HOST programs are similar to the work formally offered at the Providence Community Care Center, but now mobilized with a refurbished ambulance, donated by Olympic Ambulance and a refurbished medical RV funded by grants from Providence Community Health Investment. The RV will park in areas where many individuals can be seen at once such as Quince Street Village and the ambulance will be used to see individuals in areas that are too hard to get to with an RV.
As a result of this change, Providence has been making plans to close the Community Care Center as it exists today and is grateful for the lessons learned along the way. “Community partnerships are how society’s toughest challenges are solved,” said Darin Goss, chief executive, Providence Swedish South Puget Sound. “We will continue to serve our community with like-minded partners, meeting individuals where they are.”
Street Medicine and the HOST partnership are already underway. We expect the full transition to happen in early 2023.