Friday, August 25, 2000

Homeless get new nursing care

Health Foundation grant helps Drop-Inn Center add on-site clinic

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Started on a shoestring budget in 1978 as a place of hope and help for Greater Cincinnati's indigent and homeless, the Drop-Inn Center Shelter House is entering a new realm of care for those it serves.

[photo] Nurse Carol Adelsperger checks Willie Sherrod's blood pressure at the Drop-Inn Center.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        With support and financing from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, the Drop-Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine has opened an on-site nursing station.

        It's not the first medical clinic inside a homeless shelter in Cincinnati, but it's a big step toward fulfilling the dream of the shelter's late founder, Stanley “Buddy” Gray, who wanted to provide a range of services for those in need while also restoring their dignity.

        More than just a place to store medical supplies, the new clinic is an area where nurses such as Marge Ryan and Charlene Rasche can provide much-needed medical consultation and attention to those who have dropped off the radar screen of organized health care.

        “We want them to understand and believe that they are important — that means getting them to care about their health,” Ms. Ryan said.

        Administrators at the shelter are thrilled with the permanent clinic.

        “Forty percent of the people who are here at the shelter need some type of medical service,” said Andy Hutzel, Drop-Inn Center administrator. “The numbers of homeless aren't going down, even though they aren't growing as rapidly as they did in the late '80s.

        “Ultimately, we hope to provide primary care and cut back on the costs of having to use 911,” he said.

  • Location: 217 W. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine.
  • Founded: In 1978 by community activist Stanley ""Buddy” Gray. He was shot to death in 1996. A year after Mr. Gray's slaying, Wilbur Worthen was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
  • Funded by: Private donations, grants from social service organizations and money raised through the agency's annual 5K Run and Walk and other benefits.
  • Services: In 1999, the center provided more than 91,000 meals, about 250 per day to Cincinnati homeless, and provided shelter to more than 58,000 people. It doled out clothing and blankets to more than 9,000 people and provided counseling sessions for more than 11,000 people in need.
  • To volunteer: Call 721-0643.

        Able to house at least 250 people a day, the shelter has a number of residents who need medical care, including mental health consultation, blood pressure monitoring and in some cases “just someone to listen to them,” Ms. Ryan said.

        Esthere Bennett, 57, has lived at the Drop-Inn Center for about a year. She said she regularly goes to the nurses for help monitoring her high blood pressure.

        “They've taught me different eating habits and have shown me ways to relieve stress,” she said. “(The center) is very nice.”

        In 1999, the Drop-Inn Center provided shelter 58,206 times — about 159 people per day, on average, officials said. Medical treatment and referrals were given to about 70 people per week.

        Many of the homeless do not get adequate health care, either because they're ashamed to admit they're homeless or they don't think they'll be treated with respect.

        “Part of what we have to do before we can even provide medical advice is build trust,” added Ms. Ryan, a psychiatric nursing educator at Miami University.

        The Drop-Inn Center opened the station earlier this month with a $45,000 grant from the Health Foundation and donations from local churches.

        Nurses will be able to provide primary and preventive health care weekly and supplement medical care already being provided by other health care services, including the Homeless Health Van, mental health agencies and the Foot Care Clinic.

        For six years, nurses — those working in hospitals and those who educate students — have worked on a voluntary basis at the shelter.

        Their workspace was a vestibule where shelter residents and workers made coffee just a few steps away from a set of bathrooms.

        “We can work in pretty dire circumstances, but these were really dire,” said Ms. Rasche, a registered nurse who does research for doctors based at the University of Cincinnati Medical School.

        “There was no real privacy; coffee grounds were everywhere; it was a very high-traffic area.”

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