Whole Person Care and Its Impact on Communities Across America

Individuals and families in low-income communities may have health problems that are impacted by factors related to poverty. Poor nutrition, lack of safe and stable housing, incarceration, unemployment, and chronic anxiety about income insecurity are among these factors.

In 2016, the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) created the pilot program Whole Person Care (WPC) to combat this issue. The objective was to bridge the gaps in care for patients with complex health and social needs. Since then, the program has expanded across the United States.

Learn more about how the goals, services, and progress of Whole Person Care in the United States.

Whole Person Care Goals

One of WPC’s main goals is to provide high-risk patients with customized, integrated care. The other main goal is to create local partnerships and infrastructure to strengthen care coordination among providers. The following provide wrap-around services as part of this process:

  • Public health systems
  • Social services
  • Behavioral health
  • Law enforcement
  • Managed care plans
  • Community-based organizations

Core Interventions and Services

  • Supportive Housing Services: Patients are connected with housing navigators, financial assistance for security deposits and move-in fees, and support to maintain relationships with landlords.
  • Community Reentry After Jail: Care teams work with parolees at the time of release to safely transition to the community. The process involves connecting the parolees with case management, medical care, and housing options.
  • Behavioral Health & Substance Use Disorder Treatment: Each patient is screened for behavior health needs and connected to the appropriate level of care. This may include detox and rehabilitation centers, medication-assisted treatment, psychiatric respite, or intensive outpatient services.
  • Shared Care Planning: Each patient receives a comprehensive care plan that is accessible by every member of the care team across partner organizations.
  • Sharing Data: WPS funds innovative health information technology that lets different providers communicate and share data in real time.
  • Engaging the most vulnerable: Employing skilled health workers and peer navigators uses the lived experience of staff to encourage trust among the patients and engage them in self-care.

Whole Person Care Progress

In the first year of the WPC program, 75% of WPC pilots opened or expanded post-acute facilities and/or temporary housing. This included medical and psychiatric respite centers, low-threshold homeless shelters with on-site intensive care management, and transitional housing units.

Across 12 pilots, more than 190 housing providers, homeless advocates, social service agencies, behavioral health departments, food banks, corrections departments, and other organizations are coordinating to coordinate care for enrollees.

The pilots increased the number of patients engaged in alcohol and drug treatment. The programs also increased the number of screenings for suicide risk among patients diagnosed with major depression.

The pilots are creating innovative ways to reach individuals in need:

  • Ventura County developed one-stop mobile care pods at homeless encampments.
  • Kern County worked with local law enforcement to connect parolees with a patient-centered medical home upon release.
  • Los Angeles County employed hundreds of community health workers, many with experiences similar to WPC patients, to serve as members of the care team.

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