In Chinatown, a new clinic offers homeless first step to housing

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

CHINATOWN (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu police are on the verge of launching an urgent care clinic in Chinatown, where homeless people can see a doctor for free.

The pilot project combines health care with an offer of housing.

In April, signs went up offering free medical care in the building next to HPD's substation in Chinatown.

The Joint Outreach Center won't be fully operational until June. But word about the clinic is already getting out.

Over the past month, a pair of volunteer doctors have treated more than 100 patients, several of whom are now in shelter or detox.

"This is a walk-in clinic. They just need to show up and we'll take care of them regardless of insurance or not," said Andy Mounthongdy, executive director of the Hawaii Homeless Healthcare Hui.

While the clinic is open to the public, its mission is to help the homeless by providing an option other than the ER. An average trip to the emergency room at the Queen's Medical Center costs taxpayers $4,000.

"Here, as far as coming to this clinic, it's probably only going to cost $100 to $200," said Mounthongdy.

Most of the of the patients who've been coming in are in need of wound care.

After seeing the doctor, additional staff from multiple homeless service providers are on hand to offer housing and help with issues associated with mental illness and addiction.

"We've never had such a big partnership with community service providers, medical providers and law enforcement," said David Abitbol, the CHOW Project's policy and contracts manager.

"There's already a lot of people who are homeless in this area. And what we're here to do is take them off the street," said the executive director of the Institute for Human Services, Connie Mitchell. "If police find someone in need of attention they can just bring them right over."

Drs. Josh Green and Scott Miscovich both volunteer their time at the clinic.

All other costs of running of are covered by grants from a number of organization, including The Queen's Medical Center, HMSA and Island Hospice.

The president of the Chinatown Business and Community Association says she's excited to welcome the clinic to the neighborhood.

"I think it's a bright spot for Chinatown to have a center here that people can go instead of calling the ambulance constantly," said Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock.

Once the clinic is fully operational, HPD wants to hear from its neighbors in Chinatown about how the project is going.

"I'm very excited about this location," said police Lt. Mike Lambert. "I hope it will serve as a blue print to other neighborhoods and perhaps other agencies."

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