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The GP service offering a lifeline to homeless men

Homelessness increased by 14 percent between the 2011 and 2016 censuses, with over 116,420 people now thought to have no permanent home in Australia.

The rate of homeless men increased from 54 to 58 per 10,000, according to the data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in March this year.

There is considerable research to suggest an overlap between people experiencing precarious housing, and drug and alcohol misuse, that has created an increased need for a partnered approach to homelessness and addiction services.

UQ Health Care Clinical Lead in homelessness and addiction medicine, Dr Nancy Sturman, manages general practice support for the Ozcare Men’s Homeless Hostel and the Ozcare Integrated Drug Treatment Unit.

“I work in collaboration with Ozcare nurses, case workers, and other health professionals from Queensland Health, Mater Public Hospital and non-government organisations to provide general practice care.

“We provide care that addresses clients’ priorities, takes a trauma-informed approach, helps minimise the harms of substance use, links clients to other outreach supports, hospital-based treatment and counselling, and includes regular general practice care.”

Dr Sturman has 28 years experience as a general practitioner and a special interest in mental health issues and substance use disorders.

“My clients are often very generous with their thanks and positive feedback and appreciate the care.

“In times of trouble any success can be important, such as the clearance of Hepatitis C infection with treatment. These successes can increase self-belief and optimism about the future.

“I am often inspired by our clients, as many of the men I treat have a lot of resilience and courage despite years of experiencing accumulated trauma and pain, and significant mental health and health literacy issues.”

The Ozcare Integrated Drug Treatment Unit is a service that homeless men with alcohol or drugs problem can access and receive treatment via live-in detox programs and recovery services.

UQ Health Care Chief Executive Officer Darryl Grundy said the general practice support Dr Sturman delivers to homeless men is an important function of UQ Health Care.

“Dr Sturman and the team are highly regarded health professionals who play a significant role in supporting homeless men in Brisbane with their physical and mental health and addiction issues they face,” Mr Grundy said.

“These organisations are vital to provide health and social support to people experiencing homelessness.”

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