Arizona’s public universities team up to form health, wellness clinic for Phoenix homeless

(Amanda LaCasse/DD)
ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovations is partnering with the College of Health Solutions, U of A and NAU to create a student-led health and wellness clinic for the homeless in Phoenix. (Amanda LaCasse/DD)

Arizona’s three public universities are collaborating to create a student-led health and wellness clinic for the homeless slated to open in spring 2014.

Faculty and students from Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University have teamed up to create the Student Health Outreach for Wellness (SHOW). The organization will provide free clinical services, programming and support for the homeless population of Phoenix, according to Melissa Wenzel, senior media relations officer for ASU’s College of Health Solutions and College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

The clinic, the first of its kind in Arizona and one of only a few in the nation, will be located at 12th Avenue and Jefferson Street in the Health Care for the Homeless facility on the Human Services Campus. It will work in conjunction with Health Care for the Homeless and Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) by extending the hours that clinical services are available for the homeless, although the clinic will be separately licensed and operated.

Pamela Thompson, chair of the SHOW advisory board, said the idea for SHOW was conceived when she and other ASU faculty and students were at the Human Services Campus. They saw that while there were services available to the homeless community of Phoenix during the week, there was a major gap in those services during the evenings and weekends.

After ASU reached out to U of A and NAU, the three universities brought together members of their faculty and students to form SHOW.

Tim Ellis, co-director of SHOW from U of A, stresses that SHOW truly is a tri-university collaborative effort. U of A will provide medical school students and Master of Public Health students, while NAU will contribute students from their Physician Assistant and Physical Therapy programs. ASU will supply students from their College of Nursing and Health Innovation and College of Health Solutions.

While many of the involved students from the three universities are in health-related majors, Thompson said students involved in SHOW come from a vast range of studies, from English to business to engineering.

“The goal is to improve health outcomes for vulnerable populations through inter-professional teamwork,” Thompson said. “Not one of our professions can solve all of those problems, but collectively we have the ability to help a client to meet their needs, desires and what they see as their primary health goals.”

Students from a variety of disciplines will work to provide a holistic approach to health and wellness, offering programming such as walking groups, yoga and art classes, along with traditional clinical services.

“We’re not just a clinic. Health isn’t just about the physical part,” Thompson said. “Your health is more than that. We’re striving to look at all the things we all need to be healthy.”

The clinic will also work to educate the homeless about various health and wellness-related subjects, offering classes on topics such as nutrition, diabetes and how to avoid the flu.

Along with providing free clinical services and programming for the homeless, SHOW provides students with hands-on clinical experience and the opportunity to work alongside health care professionals. The clinic itself will be licensed and operated by professionals who will supervise the students as they work.

SHOW hopes to serve the community by first operating on weekends, utilizing Health Care for the Homeless’ facilities, and eventually operating during the evening as well.

Corinne Velasquez, program administrator for Health Care for the Homeless, said she is excited for SHOW’s upcoming opening and supportive of its goals to serve the homeless population.

“It’s a great project. It’s an opportunity for us to expand to hours that we’re not typically open,” Velasquez said. “There’s definitely a need on the campus and we hope to meet more of that demand.”

SHOW currently has over 80 student and faculty members and is hoping to grow by the time it opens in spring 2014.

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