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“Trust Our Patients So They Can Trust Us”, September 18, 2019

At a clinic in Oakland, patients who once lived on the streets are helping to improve care for the unsheltered

(CHCF) It’s just after noon on the third Wednesday of the month, and at the Trust Health Center in downtown Oakland, California, patients are sharing pizza around a conference table. Meet the Trust Partners, the clinic’s patient-based board of advisers. The role of the eight-member board is to provide patient feedback to assure that the clinic stays meaningfully connected to the community it serves.

One of the partners, William Terry, tells the group about the years he was homeless, living in a run-down minivan. The unregistered van was such a wreck that whenever he moved it for street cleaning, it left a trail of oil. In eight and a half years, he never got a ticket. “I should be in the Guinness Book of Records,” he said with a laugh.

Terry can reflect with humor on his time living on the streets because now he has an apartment, thanks largely to the Trust Health Center. This Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), which is operated by LifeLong Medical Care, opened in November 2015 to serve adult residents of Alameda County who have no home or who are at risk of losing their home. LifeLong provides primary care services, mental health care, and social services support.

Lifelong has a separate governing board overseeing the entire organization that meets the Health Resources & Services Administration’s requirement that the majority of a health center’s board must be its own patients. By law, patients must hold a majority on Lifelong’s governing board. Trust Partners offers an additional way to obtain specialized input from patients who have lived on the streets.

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