Richmond’s Daily Planet Provides Healthcare to the Homeless

           Every morning, the Daily Planet fills in with homeless patients plagued by all kinds of health problems; a man walks in with an eye patch, a woman with a leg brace, and another woman with a cane; without the Daily Planet these people would have no other access to proper healthcare.

            The Daily Planet is the only agency in the Richmond area that provides healthcare services to the homeless population, regardless of financial means. By providing the basic need of healthcare, the Daily Planet’s ultimate goal is to assist clients into transitioning into self sufficiency and independent living.

            The Daily Planet serves as the baseline of support to those who are homeless by offering primary care, behavioral health care (mental health and substance abuse), dental care, and eye care.

            “The more we can stabilize them from a physical and mental perspective, the better their chances are of not only getting out of homelessness but hopefully becoming a productive member of society,” said Susan Sekereke, Advancement Coordinator of the Daily Planet. “So that they are no longer a burden to the system but are contributing to the system.”

            According to Sekerke, the Daily Planet had about 32,000 patient encounters last year in 2011. Comparatively, that number was at 25,000 in 2008.

            “We have seen an increase since 2008 in the number of patients that we’ve seen. Our new patients that we are seeing on average since 2008 is about 45 to 50 new patients every month,” said Sekerke. “This year if we stay on track we’ll have about 33,000 patient encounters.”

            The Daily Planet believes that by providing patients with the basic human need of healthcare, they can then use that to help them transition out of homelessness.

            “I think due to a lack of their stability in a place to stay, their lack of transportation, and often financial needs, they’re not getting the healthcare they need,” said Erica Hilscher, Case Manager at the Daily Planet. “Like you or I could quite easily go to say, Patient First if we didn’t have a primary care to get help…but they can’t.”

            “We would like to identify the Daily Planet here as a one-stop-shop-drop,” said Walter Randall, Outreach Case Manager at the Daily Planet.

            In other words, once the patient has their health issues taken care of, the case managers can then connect them to services that will help them find employment and housing. The Daily Planet even helps clients create resumes, write cover letters, get proper ID’s, and learn basic living skills such as cooking and laundry. Randall said the Daily Planet provides the homeless all the resources they need, all in one place.

            Sekerke said the Daily Planet can benefit everyone in the Richmond community.

            “As far as the community as a whole, we are reducing the number of folks who utilize the emergency departments of the hospitals because if we weren’t around they wouldn’t really have any of the alternatives like getting just basic primary healthcare,” said Sekerke. “In that respect, we’re saving all of us money because those folks obviously don’t have the means to pay for their emergency care so it saves the system.”

            “I think we really just bring the community together,” said Hilscher. “It’s not just the people who work here, we have a lot of volunteers from all walks of life in Richmond that come in and help…I think we just really bring the community together for the good of the homeless population.”

            Hilscher said, “It’s not easy, but we love what we do.”

            For more information please visit the Daily Planet’s Facebook and Twitter pages.