The Herald Bulletin

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November 17, 2013

Shelters question health center treatment of homeless

Task force official: '$25 is a lot when you have zero'

ANDERSON — Residents of local homeless shelters are being charged for medical visits to the Madison County Community Health Center despite an unwritten agreement waiving such fees, say members of a task force addressing the homeless issue.

Some residents have received bills — mailed to them in care of the shelters — seeking a $25 fee for health services, said Amy Bond, president of the Anderson/Madison County Homeless Task Force.

“Twenty-five dollars is a lot when you have zero,” said Bond.

In turn, shelter residents are seeking more expensive treatment at hospital emergency rooms where the cost can often be written off for charitable purposes, she said.

The health center, however, operates under a grant where the homeless are not turned away, said Anthony J. Malone, executive director of the center, 1547 Ohio Ave. Last week for example, he said, the center referred in-house care to nine homeless patients.

Malone cited his homeless patient enrollment at 29 in 2010, rising to 70 in 2012 and an estimated 90 this year. However, physician recruitment efforts has yielded limited ability to see more patients, Malone wrote in an email to The Herald Bulletin. He wrote, “Many problems of homeless are chronic and they need physician specialty care. Their problems are long term, life threatening and intense due to long term lack of care.”

The dilemma goes back nearly a year when a sign was posted at the health center indicating it would not treat residents of homeless shelters without payment, task force representatives said.

The task force has numerous members; shelters represented include The Christian Center, Alternatives Inc., Dove Harbor, House of Hope, and Bountiful Harvest Ministries — Beauty For Ashes Transitional Home.

Some members representing the shelters recently met with The Herald Bulletin. The representatives asked not to be identified by name because they were concerned their clients would not receive future health center services.

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