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Data-Sharing for Homeless Services: Orange County Launches New Technology to Coordinate Homeless Care, Services

Whole Person CareThe County of Orange is launching a data-sharing tool for medical providers and agencies in Orange County, California to coordinate the myriad of homeless services.

As a critical component of the Whole Person Care (WPC) Pilot Program, the WPC Connect care coordination program, the first of its kind in the state, will electronically share information from emergency departments, hospitals, community clinics, shelters, and other homeless-service providers to more easily coordinate services for homeless individuals and improve access to available County services.

Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do says that the new technology will close service gaps and allow agencies to develop a personalized plan of action for every participating homeless person.

“Whether it’s physical health, or mental health issues, WPC Connect will allow the County to address the causes of homelessness across service providers,” explained Supervisor Do, Chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. “We want every agency and department working towards a single personalized plan of action for every homeless person in Orange County.”

Orange County Hospital Emergency Departments, Community Clinics, and Recuperative Care providers participate in WPC Connect as well as County agencies, including CalOptima and the Orange County Health Care Agency’s Behavioral Health and Public Health divisions.

Orange County’s $31 Million Homeless Pilot Project 
By the end of January 2019, the County anticipates the central information hub to be operational, coordinating care and services to Medi-Cal recipients who are homeless. The data-sharing program is currently receiving real-time emergency department data from St. Joseph Hospital, St. Jude Medical Center, and Mission Hospital.

Next month, Emergency Departments at Orange Coast Memorial and Saddleback Memorial Medical Centers are expected to join the data sharing collaborative – with University of California, Irvine Medical Center joining in March 2019.

“Data is being used in the private sector to improve our lives in so many ways,” Supervisor Do said. “It’s time government got on board, and put data to work addressing our greatest challenges like homelessness.”

The data-sharing initiative is just one part of the County’s five-year, $31 million pilot project designed to combat homelessness by coordinating physical, behavioral health, and social services. The “Whole Person Care” program prioritizes recuperative care and wrap-around services that link Orange County’s homeless to mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and permanent supportive housing.

Homeless Data Sharing: How It Works
How will WPC Connect work? Take a common scenario of a homeless patient discharged from a hospital.

After an Emergency Department visit or hospitalization, a homeless patient may have special needs to prevent readmission. The data-sharing program allows medical providers to update relevant information into a patient’s collaborative care plan and refer them to services if they are new to the WPC Program or alert other members of that patient’s care team of the hospital visit if they are already enrolled. As other homeless-service agencies interact with the homeless patient, all necessary medical coordination history, as well as linkages to community services and documentation for housing readiness will be in one place. This cross sharing of information will ensure the right services are provided for each homeless patient and reduce duplication of efforts across providers.

“Over the past 18 months, Orange County has greatly expanded our homeless services,” said Supervisor Do. “This program ensures those targeted and specialized services reach the people in need.”

The program could help reduce the number of repeat visits by homeless patients at local Emergency Departments. The Emergency Clinical Decision Unit at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange averages 430 patients per month, and according to the Orange County Register, half are by patients without housing.

In total, the County expects approximately 5,000 homeless individuals who are receiving care through the Whole Person Care program to be entered into the data-sharing system.

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