CHICAGO – The American Medical Association (AMA) today adopted new policy aimed at addressing the unique health and social needs of persons experiencing homelessness. The new policy calls for supporting the development of cost-effective, evidence-based plans to safely discharge individuals experiencing homelessness from emergency departments, and the expansion of affordable housing across all neighborhoods.
Under the new policy, the AMA will also support laws that protect the civil and human rights of individuals experiencing homelessness. This policy will help ensure that homeless individuals are not criminalized for carrying out life-sustaining activities, such as eating, sitting, or sleeping, in public spaces when no alternative private space is available—particularly when these activities are deemed non-criminal under typical circumstances.
“We know that many factors contribute to adverse health outcomes for homeless individuals. To help improve the health and well-being of people who experience homelessness, we must take a multi-pronged approach that includes collaboration among the community, government, social service organizations and physicians,” said AMA Board Member E. Scott Ferguson, M.D. “With homeless individuals relying heavily on emergency departments as their regular source of care, it is especially important that we reach beyond the hospital and into the community to offer clinical and social services to these vulnerable patients.”
Recognizing that stable, affordable housing is essential to the health of individuals, families, and communities, the AMA furthered its policy to support the preservation and expansion of affordable housing in all neighborhoods across the country.
More than 550,000 people experience homelessness in the U.S. on a single night, according to the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress—with most staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs and approximately 35 percent staying in unsheltered locations.
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About the American Medical Association
The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care. The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.