Pasco County's mobile unit has been giving medical care to homeless people and uninsured residents for several months.
Now, County Commissioner Pat Mulieri hopes to glean ideas to expand the program during an international conference in September.
Mulieri is paying her own way to Salt Lake City for Street Medicine Symposium 2012. Her frequent flier miles will come in handy, she said.
At the conference, organized by the Ingomar, Pa.-based Street Medicine Institute, Mulieri hopes to confer with the institute's founder, Jim Withers, considered the "father of street medicine."
As chair of the county's homeless advisory committee, Mulieri has witnessed dire needs of many residents. Pasco-Pinellas Public Defender Bob Dillinger supervises the unit.
"We are working with a client now whose only shelter was a blue tarp he wrapped around himself," Mulieri said. "Rain or shine, this was his home sweet home. He needs to be physically stronger to survive the winter. He is 56."
The advisory group spearheaded the mobile medical office project by buying a used van from Pinellas County. State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, arranged for $165,000 in state funding to pay staff. A driver and nurse practitioner came aboard last month to supplement the volunteers.
Mulieri is working with Dillinger and David R. Johnson, director of the Pasco County Health Department, on setting up some kind of voucher system. They might enlist some nonprofit health clinics.
That's where the international symposium comes in.
"I want to see if any groups have established a respite care facility," Mulieri said. "For example, an unsheltered client with a respiratory problem may receive medications but needs a place where his or her meds are monitored and he or she can be warm, dry and well-fed for a few weeks until they recover."
Mulieri will hear speakers from around the world presenting clinical topics, innovations and best practices when working with the homeless.
Mulieri wants to attend the Street Medicine 101 workshop on Sept. 26, which precedes the symposium. The workshop is geared toward groups new to the street medicine program.
"We submit a paper beforehand with our questions and concerns and the background of our program," Mulieri said. "I feel accountability is very important. We are gathering statistics. I am interested in how other programs set benchmarks and analyze effectiveness."
Another issue is partnerships, Mulieri said.
"I am interested in partnerships others may have formed, the process, and steps," she said. "It appears that much funding now is based on collaboration. We are looking into that and hoping to work with other groups."