Douglas County to consider participating in initiative to address chronic homelessness

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo

The Douglas County Courthouse is pictured in September 2018.

Douglas County on Wednesday may take a step to begin tracking data on the local homeless population, with the goal of addressing chronic homelessness in the community.

The County Commission will consider entering an agreement with Community Solutions, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending homelessness, during its regular meeting. The agreement would allow Douglas County, in partnership with the City of Lawrence and many community organizations, to take part in the nonprofit’s Built For Zero initiative.

The initiative would help the county develop a resource to track data related to the chronically homeless population in the area. It would also help the county create a performance management tool to track its progress on helping address homelessness.

The county estimates there could be more than 250 chronically homeless individuals in the Lawrence and Douglas County community.

“Through participation in this initiative, our community would make a commitment to reducing the number of chronically homeless individuals to zero through sustained and coordinated efforts,” Assistant County Administrator Jill Jolicoeur said in a memo to the commissioners.

Additionally, Jolicoeur said the Lawrence Community Shelter is currently evaluating data management systems to track shelter residents as well as those the shelter unable to serve. She said the county having the opportunity to develop a new database of homeless individuals in the area would be “extremely beneficial” for the shelter.

If approved, the agreement would cost Douglas County $10,000.

In other business:

• The commissioners will consider approving the purchase of six cardiac monitors and two portable ventilators for Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.

While the cardiac monitors were slated for purchase in the 2020 budget, LDCFM amended the request to include the two portable ventilators. The purchase would cost the county $195,000.

Division Chief Kevin Joles said that, after a review at the end of 2019, LDCFM intended to upgrade its two current portable ventilators, which are outdated. But he said the purchase of the new portable ventilators could also help the community’s response to the current coronavirus pandemic.

“When the equipment review was done at the end of last year, the ventilators were intended … for a needed upgrade, however, having these devices in our ‘medical toolbox’ during this COVID-19 pandemic allows us greater parameters in treatment and enhances our system of care,” Joles said in an email to the Journal-World.

The ventilators that are currently in use are housed at LMH Health in its emergency department, according to a memo to the commissioners.

The proposed purchase is listed as part of the meeting’s consent agenda, which allows the commission to consider and approve several items in one motion, unless a commissioner or member of the public asks to pull an item for discussion.

• The commissioners will meet for a work session to discuss trends in the county’s healthcare plan. No action will be taken on the matter.

The County Commission will meet Wednesday at 4 and 5:30 p.m. for its work session and regular meeting, respectively. The meeting will be open to the walk-in public, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the county is strongly recommending that residents to follow proceedings from home. A link for the public to watch live online is available on the county’s website, Residents may also call in and listen by phone by dialing 1-312-626-6799 and entering meeting ID 744 863 537. Full audio from the meeting will continue to be posted on the county’s website as normal.

More coverage: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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What to do if you think you may have COVID-19

Patients who have symptoms — difficulty breathing, cough and fever — should stay home, immediately isolate themselves from others and call their health care providers. Patients should never show up unannounced at a medical office or hospital. Instead, they should call ahead to explain their symptoms and give health care workers the ability to minimize the risk to others.

If patients do not have health care providers, they may call the Lawrence Douglas-County health department’s coronavirus line, 785-856-4343.

For updated information on the outbreak, Kansas residents can email or call 866-534-3463 (866-KDHEINF), which is staffed 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

More information can be found through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s website or the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health website.

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