Portland will begin scaling back operations at the city’s Health Care for the Homeless program next week, but officials now say homeless residents receiving medical treatment from the city should not lose access to care during the transition to a nearby nonprofit health center.

Because of “recent staffing efforts” by the Portland Community Health Center, “all parties are more confident that what was once considered to be a potentially large gap” in medical services to the homeless “is not a significant issue,” Sheila Hill-Christian, Portland’s deputy city manager, wrote in a memo to the City Council’s Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee.

Committee members are scheduled to discuss the issue Tuesday evening with representatives from the city and the Portland Community Health Center, the nonprofit medical care provider that is expanding to serve homeless patients.

Portland officials learned earlier this year that the city would lose a federal grant that provides roughly one-third of the funding for the Health Care for the Homeless program, which serves roughly 2,300 individuals. As a result, city officials announced the program’s clinics would close this year.

The federal government instead awarded the $680,000 grant to the Portland Community Health Center to provide medical care to the homeless. However, city officials and others raised concerns that the nonprofit would not have the capacity to serve all of the patients who get care at the city clinic.

Those concerns led the city to seek and receive $360,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help with the transition and to keep the city clinic open beyond April 1.

The city now expects to stop offering clinical coverage by mid-June as the Portland Community Health Center steps in to provide care.

The nonprofit plans to lease space at 63 Preble St. to allow it to serve an additional 1,000 individuals and is hiring new staff, including some from the city clinical program.

Health Care for the Homeless will go from five-days-a-week to four-days-a-week beginning on April 14 and plans to close to medical patients on May 29, although limited clinical services will continue to be available to homeless individuals through June 12.

“PCHC’s added capacity related to medical services is extremely good news and should be adequate to meet the medical needs of the city’s homeless population in the short term,” Douglas Gardner, director of Portland Department of Health and Human Services, wrote in a memo to the Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee. “The city’s ‘ramp-down’ plan, which focuses on maintaining behavioral health and dental services for as long as possible, is also complementary to PCHC’s planned approach.”

In his memo to the City Council committee, Gardner indicated that Health Care for the Homeless will continue to provide behavioral health services through Nov. 26 and dental care through late November, although with reduced frequency.

One issue still up for discussion, however, is how much the city will continue to subsidize the program to provide medical care to the homeless.

The federal grant covers one-third of the city’s Health Care for the Homeless program. The remaining money is roughly divided into thirds between revenues from patients – largely in the form of Medicare and MaineCare funding – and a combination of state, local and federal block grant funding.

But funding from MaineCare is expected to drop significantly because of recent budget cuts. As a result, Portland Community Health Center officials indicated that they hope the city will continue to pay into the program.

“When considering both the homeless population that is currently receiving primary care, as well as the larger unmet need, the solution and resources lie beyond any one organization or funding source,” Leslie Clark Brancato, the nonprofit’s CEO, wrote to the City Council committee.

Neither Gardner nor Clark Brancato could be reached Monday.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

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